With his recent suite of ten woodblock prints, Luddite, Aaron Spangler has conjured a tangled and immersive world that unwittingly channels the densely symbolic tales of Hieronymus Bosch within a 21st-century stylistic idiom. Spangler’s bold, one-color woodcuts, with their complex skeins of pattern and form, lack Bosch’s jewel-like hues and detailed naturalism. But just as Bosch was an acute observer of Dutch society at the turn of the 16th century, Spangler is an intrepid interpreter of rural life—in his case, the vicinity of the small town of Park Rapids in northern Minnesota, a landscape of deep woods, granite outcroppings and cold blue lakes. Spangler and his wife, Amy Theilen, a chef and cookbook author, are both native to the area and, after years away, now live on the town’s outskirts in a forest near the headwaters of the Mississippi River. He describes the prints’ subject matter as “rural chaos, high anxiety, political outrage, nature’s beauty and bounty, stoicism, severe religion, wellness and spiritual bliss,”1 suggesting the narrative fury of Bosch, who showed little mercy for the besotted clerics, misbehaving nuns and compromised peasants who peopled his paintings. Both artists treat the world with smart, dark cynicism.
- Aaron Spangler, Luddite (Minneapolis: Highpoint Editions, 2014), 11.