Paintings That Celebrate The `World in a Grain of Sand'

A BEAM of light illumines a strange green forest. At once familiar and bizarre, this "other world" lies hidden in the grass. It is all lush green suffused with golden light. The painting, "Annunciation" by Ron Trujillo, is more realistic than a photograph, because hidden within the perfection of detail is the very feeling of grass growing.

The painting, like so many of Mr. Trujillo's, reminds the viewer of a detail from an Old Master landscape. The rich color could only have been achieved by many layers of thin transparent paint, followed by numerous layers of glaze.

"You don't get that glow by just laying down pigment," the artist says. In fact, Trujillo routinely uses 50 to 60 layers of glaze to bring out those riches of color.

He works from slides and photographs, selecting one or two images from 70 or 80 slides taken on his walks around his backyard or the nearby Denver parks.

He has modified several cheap cameras, adjusting the focal length of the lens to accommodate the microcosm he locates at mouse-eye level. On any given day he will have two cameras with him, will plop them down in the grass near a likely subject, and will shoot.

"As I started to work with these ideas of landscape," he said in a recent conversation in his studio, "I realized that usually landscape is pictured from a very human perspective. I wanted to do something different."

He chose these extremely low angles, which offered him a slightly distorted macroview with a limited focus.

Looking at Trujillo's paintings, we gaze up at blades of grass or weeds. The edges of certain plants are in sharp focus, while others are softened by diffused light; but always it is a view one wouldn't normally see.

"Annunciation" has a fantastic quality, as if elves lived there and were hiding from view. It draws the viewer in by its verisimilitude and its enticing light.

In "Dying Tomato," Trujillo finds another emotional reality to explore. The yellowed tomato vine is still full of ripe fruit. The angle of view is still very low, looking up at a dramatic evening sky. It might be a wry comment on romantic art: The plant unites earth and sky, a very small subject for such grand treatment.

But even while we smile a little at the wit, the fact remains that this small subject is worthy of such grand treatment.

Trujillo's microworlds, like William Blake's "world in a grain of sand," celebrate the fullness of life at all levels. The mound of dirt in his backyard imitates the grandeur of a mountain in its form. The blades of grass may imitate the forms of the rain forest and its cool deep green. It is all meaningful, rich, mysterious, and awe-inspiring. The scale of things is relative to human perception.

"I want to give the viewer as much as I receive visually from these images. But I want to convey the idea [that] it is a painting, not a photograph. Earlier pieces really were trying to convey the idea of discovery of learning to see - something a child goes through, digging through the weeds and coming across something. But now it's the drama of the light...."

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