Beer with a Painter: Gregory Botts
I have known Gregory Botts for about twenty years. Early on, I remember being captivated by the guerilla action he and his wife, fellow painter Jenny Hankwitz, took in the early 1990s: planting sunflowers in the meridian of Houston Street in SoHo. Botts divides his time between New York City and Abiquiu, New Mexico. On his cross-country road trips, he paints landscapes outdoors, and in the studio he incorporates the landscape vocabulary and motifs into larger-scaled, more abstract work. Two of the important writers on Botts’s work are literary critic Harold Bloom and poet David Shapiro. An interest in poetry runs through Botts’s practice, as evidenced in the titles of his paintings and in the volume of his own poetry, which he published as a companion to his visual work, Clouds, Leaves, Waves (1996).
Around 2001 my husband and I visited Botts in New Mexico, where he lives in the middle of an empty desert field, and he showed us his paintings, all lined up on the studio floor. He took us on a hike through Ghost Ranch, where I felt sun-struck and dazed by the harsh light and altitude. Botts, however, was very much in his element, leading us around in a straw hat, and talking animatedly about Georgia O’Keeffe.
Botts has an exuberant but economic way with paint, marking the curve of a flower stem, the form of a mesa, and a cloud sitting in the sky with accuracy and poetic bravado. The landscapes are punctuated by geometric interruptions: squares of saturated color and black, jagged outlines that symbolize a break between the natural forms in the paintings and a studio or painting wall. They are the checks and balances in the middle of a relentless pursuit of adventure and the sublime, where motifs and geometry are constantly recycled and re-imagined.
In the 1980s and 1990s his work was shown at Anne Plumb Gallery and Tony Shafrazi Gallery, New York. In Santa Fe, it has been exhibited with Gerald Peters Gallery and David Richard Gallery. He is currently the subject of a solo exhibition at Austin Peay State University, Clarksville, Tennessee. A group of fourteen paintings entitled “Stations Project” is installed at the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine in Manhattan, through April 2015.