BYU professor creates childlike art to express memories and the past

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As an assistant professor in BYU’s Department of Visual Arts, Fidalis Buehler makes a living helping aspiring artists learn how to create serious works of art. However, in his on-campus studio Buehler’s beautifully realistic paintings are contrasted with images that seem childlike. The artist has recently transitioned to paintings and animations that are surprisingly simple.

As a father of three girls, Buehler watches and learns from the art they produce. He said he finds value in the pure vision of children.

[media-credit name=”Courtesy of Fidalis Buehler” align=”alignleft” width=”300″][/media-credit]
While Fidalis Buehler's simplistic style may confuse some, there is definite purpose behind it.
“What we’re seeing in children is an uninhibited response,” he said. “I respond to things … but in some ways my filter has been muddied down by other things that maybe aren’t so important, so I like to reflect on how children work because maybe their filter is more pure, more perfected, maybe it’s actually more accurate at times.”

Heavily influenced by his time spent in the South Pacific as a child and his Polynesian heritage, Buehler said he is almost subconsciously aware of how prior experiences creep into this art.

“All my work references memory, whether it is large landscape cataclysmic experiences of volcanoes, or if it’s these animations,” he said. “They all have some bearing on memory and experience: a story that’s been told to me or an idea that I’ve garnered up 20 years ago.”

Cole Walker, a senior from San Jose, Calif., whom Buehler advises, said he thinks the work is appropriately childlike for the subject matter.

“There’s more going on than these weird, quirky dancing objects,” Walker said. “The ideas he’s dealing with are memories and growing up.”

Walker said he feels he’s been heavily influenced by Buehler and respects his confidence to try something different.

“He showed me it’s OK to not do what you’re necessarily good at, but what’s important to you,” Walker said.

Buehler creates his animations directly from his sketches. After the image is scanned Buehler then takes the images and cuts them on Photoshop and moves the pieces to create short visual narratives like “Happy Walk,” which simply sets to music a young boy in an orange outfit walking.

“I don’t try to control the method too much,” Buehler said. “One of the rules for me is to have a little fun while making it and if I’m not enjoying the experience then it loses its power.”

At first glance, Buehler’s animations seem cute and quirky, but Buehler said he hopes this will lead to dicussion of more serious topics.

“They should invite a little laughter,” he said. “I’m learning an interesting thing, and comedians do this all the time, where a little laughter actually pulls down barriers in discussions. Allowing just a little bit where you can kind of chuckle or loosen up allows for the discussion ‘what does it mean?’ and then we’re maybe a little more receptive to what it means.”

Buehler said there is room for discussion since his artwork is often more than what is simply portrayed in the painting or animation.

“I try to infuse a lot of cryptic messages so the viewer spends more time with them,” he said. “I feel like if the narrative is completely laid out it loses it’s power.”

And while Buehler hopes his work will create a reaction from the audience, he is happy with or without the attention.

“I’ve gotten to a point where I’m not so overly concerned about people’s reactions toward the work,” he said. “I think there’s a time and a place to be concerned about how you view things, but I’m at a point where I’m OK just revealing some of the information and allowing whatever traffic visits it to be happy with it or not.”

To see Buehler’s work visit fidalisbuehler.blogspot.com.

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