All art is abstract. A representation of a place is not the place, any more than the above description is a painting, or the theory of relativity is the universe. Darker paint suggests, but is not, a shadow. Downes understands this and speaks directly to it. His plein air method, without the use of photographs or studio embellishments, means he his making philosophical generalities — during the long time he spends making these highly detailed works the plants change, the cows have moved, there are different cars. His paintings, at first unnerving because of their departure from expected norms, address seeing as a subjective experience, even as their verisimilitude reflects the objective reality of his subjects.

Ken Greenleaf can be reached at ken.greenleaf@gmail.com.

"RACKSTRAW DOWNES: ONSITE PAINTINGS, 1972-2008" | through March 20 | at the Portland Museum of Art, 7 Congress Sq, Portland | 207.775.6148

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