School of art

School Notes: School of Art
November/December 2009

Marta Kuzma |

Alumnus named MacArthur Fellow

The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation has named painter Rackstraw Downes ’63BFA, ’64MFA, one of its 2009 MacArthur Fellows. Only 24 individuals were named MacArthur Fellows this year; four of them have Yale connections.

Rackstraw Downes is a representational painter who specializes in detailed oil landscapes that "invite viewers to reconsider the intersection between the natural world and man-made objects." His subjects are often those that are overlooked or considered unappealing, and range from roadways, urban detritus, and the industrial backyards of the East Coast to the oil fields and empty terrain of Texas. He paints his canvases on site, often spending many months outdoors in order to capture details of lighting and weather. Examples of his work are in the permanent collections of the Art Institute of Chicago, the Museum of Modern Art, the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, and the National Gallery of Art, among others. Downes's body of work also encompasses the history and thought of painting; he has written highly regarded essays on various visual and literary artists, some of which have appeared in the New York TimesArt in America, and Art Journal.

Also known as "genius grants," the MacArthur fellowships are awarded to "talented individuals who have shown extraordinary originality and dedication in their creative pursuits and a marked capacity for self-direction," according to the foundation's website. The fellowship is a "no strings attached" award that carries with it a stipend of $500,000 over five years.

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