From a dabble of paint - Greenwood artist's trompe l'oeil is marriage of trickery and modernism

Renowned Greenwood artist Bill Braun can't remember when he started dabbling in trompe l'oeil art, but it's consumed him for the last couple of decades.

"I've been doing it for so long - I started as a young adult in art school," Braun said. "I went to school in the Bay Area and went to lots of museums. One whole room was filled with trompe l'oeil."

While at art school, Braun saw parallels between trompe l'oeil (pronounced "trump l'wah") and modernism and first became hooked on painting abstract geometrics.

Over the years, he began using shadows, textures and then cutouts of birds, houses and flowers. The cutouts appear to be adhered by masking tape and stapled to a crinkled background of brown kraft paper.

The viewer often has to look several times to realize that what appears to be a 3-D collage is a masterful application of acrylic on canvas.

Grecian roots

Trompe l'oeil, literally translated to "tricking the eye," has roots to ancient Greece, with examples discovered in the ruins of Pompeii.

American trompe l'oeil painting became very popular in the late 19th century, notable artists being William Harnett, John Peto and John Haberle. Some historians have claimed that trompe l'oeil influenced the American pop artists of the 1950s and '60s, including Jasper Johns' "Flag" (1955).

International appeal

Braun studied at the University of Nevada at Reno; and received his bachelor's degree in fine art at the California College of Arts and Crafts in 1978.

His work has been featured in galleries in California, Nevada, Chicago, New York, London and Dallas.

He met Gunnar Nordstrom about 14 years ago through another art dealer. Since then, the two have struck up a symbiotic chord: Braun has been featured yearly in Nordstrom's gallery since 1994. Braun's current exhibit is on display at the Gunnar Nordstrom Gallery, 127 Lake St. S., in Kirkland, through July 9.

Braun is married and has a 14-year-old son. But he said he doesn't see a future of retirement or doing anything else but painting: "I probably will always paint. I get my son to school and go to work and paint. My studio is in the basement so I save on the commute," he said.

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