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Illumination magazine.
 Fall 2007 Table of Contents.
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"Weakest Feeling of Sublime." Oil on linen, 8"x10", 2007.

New York City has long served as a magnet for talented young artists; it is, after all, the nation's undisputed cultural capital. But for Nathan Boyer, a painter whose painstaking production method demands an unusual measure of time and attention, the frantic pace and increasing expense of the Big Apple was becoming a distraction. Moving to Columbia changed all that.

"I guess you could say that the slower pace of Columbia gives me the time and focus to make the work that I want to make," says Boyer, now an assistant professor of art at MU. Boyer, a 33-year-old East Coast native, first encountered Columbia's more relaxed atmosphere during a yearlong teaching gig with MU's art faculty in 2003 When a more permanent opening was advertised last year, Boyer and his wife -- an artist and MU School of Journalism grad -- jumped at the chance to return.

His work, reproduced both on these pages and our website, show why Boyer's fine art colleagues welcomed him back to MU. His paintings, by design, have a powerful visual and narrative appeal that compels curiosity and contemplation.

Earlier compositions, represented on the first four pages of this feature, depict the journey of a child through an evolving dreamscape. Figures painted from clay models move through spaces rich in light and shadow; mysterious doors and staircases beckon; spectral presences hover. In later paintings, such as those depicted on the feature's final two pages, viewers find themselves launched into an alien universe created from canvases painted using Pixar-style digital modeling.

Boyer says these images draw on a notion from 19th century German Romanticism, the idea that sensitive souls experience the sublime through nature's god-like power.

"I was thinking about our own contemporary split between religion and science," Boyer says. "Here you are put into this scene from science fiction, this digitally constructed world. It's a very unnatural environment, but one that might evoke similar feelings."

Additional paintings, like the one at bottom left on this page, employ whimsical figures, chickens and potatoes in this case, to invoke stories that, in an endearingly offbeat way, hearken back to medieval narratives on devotional panels.

What all of these paintings have in common is Boyer's desire to create mythic or archetypal narratives that speak to viewers' imaginations and memories. He says forthcoming works will continue in this vein, but will combine elements of painting and video to more deeply draw audiences into the worlds of his creations.

The idea is to emphasize the highly contingent way in which individuals create narratives and impose meaning on visual information. "I'm always looking for new ways to tell different kinds of stories," he says.

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