twoColumn twoRight


June 5, 2023


Bo Bartlett Life During Wartime

Image © Bo Bartlett, courtesy Bo Bartlett Studio.


Bo Bartlett: Earthly Matters Addresses the Issues of Our Time in Grand Scale

MOCA Jacksonville, a cultural institute of the University of North Florida, is pleased to announce the opening of a new exhibition by one of the most notable American Realist painters working today. Bo Bartlett: Earthly Matters presents a selection of Bartlett's recent works accompanied by the artist's preparatory studies. The exhibition opened to the public Saturday, May 27, 2023 and is on view through October 15, 2023. A rich schedule of programming accompanies this exhibition, including an Ideas of Our Time Lecture on July 5, MOCA Movie Night on August 16, and a free access Family Day on September 2.

exhibit opening for Bo Barlett

Artist Bo Bartlett giving a tour of the exhibition Earthly Matters during the Patrons Preview of the opening reception


Bo Bartlett (American, b. 1955) is known for his large-scale narrative paintings that embrace his Southern upbringing and gothic sensibility through deeply personal subject matter. His luminous figurative works offer just enough context to be relatable, while leaving the viewer with a sense of mystery and the opportunity to fill in the blanks of the story based on their personal experiences. He sets his figures in stark outdoor settings, at once familiar and indefinable. You immediately recognize the setting but need a few more details to accurately place the specific location. It is much the same with his figures-idealized forms in familiar settings, engaged in activities that leave the viewer wondering. The sense of mystery and slight unease is heightened by a direct stare, a figure just slightly out of place, or a detail that makes you ask yourself what precisely is going on. His celebration of the everyday and commonplace is presented with an uncanny, dreamlike tone that produces psychological tension, a sense of unease, and an opportunity for introspection.

“I believe in the power of art to transform lives,” states Bartlett. “It is more than an aesthetic or cultural experience. Art is at the very core of what it means to be alive, to be human on this planet.”

 Bo Bartlett study for the flood

Study for The Flood by Bo Bartlett. Image © Bo Bartlett, courtesy Bo Bartlett Studio.


The Flood by Bo Bartlett

The Flood, 2018, by Bo Bartlett (American, b.1955). Oil on linen, 82 x 100 inches. © Image courtesy of the artist and Miles McEnery Gallery, New York, NY.

As a classically trained painter with a deep knowledge of western Art History, Bartlett's work follows the tradition of American Realists such as Thomas Eakins, Edward Hopper, and Andrew Wyeth, drawing inspiration for his subject matter from the world around him. The work is intimate in feeling, yet presented in the epic form of classical history painting. His larger-than-life scenes break down the barriers between the subjects on canvas and the viewers, who are invited to contemplate their role in the narrative.

Bartlett's appreciation for ordinary moments imbues his work with an underlying luminosity and frankness, offset against a very modern sense of the uncanny; an unease conveyed by the low horizon line, the hazy palette of the sky, or by the unexpected elements often incorporated into the picture plane. This blending of the classical and the contemporary is further underlined by the cinematic feel of many of the paintings, that undoubtedly owes to his background in filmmaking.

Bo Bartlett: Earthly Matters was organized by the Gibbes Museum of Art, Charleston, SC. Curator for MOCA Jacksonville, Ylva Rouse. Support for this exhibition was made in part by the City of Jacksonville, the Cultural Council of Greater Jacksonville, the Florida Division of Cultural Affairs, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the University of North Florida.

Exhibit Information