Ken Buhler


In recent years, I have become fascinated with wildflowers. During walks through the shallow creek behind my house in Masonville, New York, I have spent hours cataloging, collecting, and learning them. Their fortitude—a quiet determination to rise up in wild and often unforgiving places—appeals to me. I first took note of this quality two summers ago, in the West of Ireland, where soft blue Sheep’s-bit and yellow Hawkweed clung to edge of rocky cliffs, hammered by wind and rain.

Historically, I have always felt a powerful influence from the natural world in the evocation of form, light, and color in my paintings. However, I used to insist upon distilling these to essences that moved away from specific references. Now these elements, often botanical or decorative in nature, which were once merely catalysts for abstraction in my work, are freely entering the lexicon of the painting itself and forging a relationship with my own personal vocabulary. It is liberating for me to acknowledge these sources so directly, their presence now not only felt but seen.

This curiosity about wildflowers dovetails with an interest in language that has entered my work in recent years. It parallels my interest in the names of birds that gave rise to my Birdlands series of paintings and watercolors in 2011-13. A body of work entitled Shakespeare’s Garden, based on passages in Shakespeare’s plays with botanical references, was completed in 2016. Now, my contemplation and research on wildflowers has become a powerful entry point for me into the work.