Oil and water will cover the walls of Watermark Books & Cafe on Friday as Bill Goffrier opens his latest exhibit. It’s a homecoming show of sorts for the artist and mixes two distinct painting mediums with divergent styles in landscapes. The works showcase unique vantage points, many from Kansas and Massachusetts, two states Goffrier is intimately familiar with.
Goffrier, 56, was raised in Wichita and earned an art degree from Wichita State University. He moved to Massachusetts in 1983 to study painting in a master’s program at Boston University. He stayed in the Boston area after he was done, painting and teaching art throughout New England. Last summer, he and his wife, Karlee, moved back to Wichita to be closer to family.
Goffrier is familiar with the Wichita art scene. While living in Massachusetts, he visited several times a year and often exhibited during his stay. This will be his first show since moving back. He said he looks forward to people seeing a full range of his works at the exhibit, which covers a long span of years.
In the series, Goffrier aims to bring viewers to experience the richness of place, he said. A forest-draped windmill, a college campus dome observatory on a hill and a placid-looking paper birch tree become invitations to optically explore different terrains. Some of the works profile familiar local spots like the train yards near East Douglas and the gargantuan grain elevator in north Wichita. Others spotlight more urban locales such as waterfront views of the Boston cityscape. Whether it’s a sprawling Kansas prairie or glistening New England lake, Goffrier communicates a keen sense of place in each of his works.
“Some of my most recent work was done locally in Kansas when I visited over the past few summers, but a lot has been on exhibit back in Massachusetts,” he said. “This is work that I haven’t had a chance to show here before but have wanted to show for quite some time. I was very prolific in watercolors in Massachusetts for a number of years, but I wasn’t exhibiting them that often.”
The show, aptly named “Oil and Water,” exemplifies dual mediums Goffrier has focused on at various points in his career as a painter. He said that oils were his first focus but he became fascinated by the possibilities of watercolors.
“A big part of the watercolors came from many years of me going from a painting student who was never formally taught watercolors to then being inspired by the early 20th-century German expressionist paintings, which are bold, simple, fresh and modernist in a lot of ways.”
More recently, Goffrier has re-focused on oil paintings.
“I have a different technique now that I’ve gone back to oils. It’s very naturalistic. There’s nothing flashy about it, but to me it’s just as interesting because it’s always about a confrontation between what I find in nature with my subjects. I have a direct encounter with the situation, with light and weather, and a subject that may be kind of transient at times.”
In addition to the paintings, Goffrier will be exhibiting his musical talent. He and his wife, who manages the Watermark Cafe, will perform an acoustic set midway through the show. The whole evening, Goffrier said, is an invitation to experience place through sight.
“A painting is meant to uplift and communicate with the viewer an appreciation of being alive in the world and living in the moment. A work of art can be a companion to someone by having a dialogue, an experience with it, to yourself. It’s a special connection between the viewer and a piece of art – like you aren’t alone.”