Without a formal art education, Hirofumi Glover learned to paint through trial and error, starting with decorative cabinets and tables he sold at his local farmers market in Salem, Oregon. As his designs became more and more popular, Glover expanded to floor coverings, full-size doors and – encouraged by his customers and a group of friends who were also new to fine art painting – eventually canvas.
In search of subject matter, he looked to his surroundings and began painting horses inspired by the carousel at Salem’s Riverfront Park and Geishas based on dolls he’d watched his mother make when he was a child. Glover depicted both subjects with broad, exciting brush strokes and an appealingly bold color palette that brought these passive objects to life. Impressed by a particularly lovely drive through the Willamette Valley, Glover next tried his hand at landscapes, painting big, nearly cloudless skies and the gentle valley floor in compositions that radiate with the calm of a summer’s day.
Since relocating to La Grande over four years ago, Glover has found the move to Eastern Oregon more disruptive to his work than anticipated. Originally intending to ramp up his output and sell paintings in the Willamette Valley art fair circuit, Glover took part-time work instead and put painting on the back burner, finding that, for him, making art was as much about the close knit community of artists he belonged to as it was about process or finished paintings.
Spurred by a McMinnville gallery’s request for a show of recent paintings in the fall of 2016, Glover dusted off his brushes and set to work, finding a fresh aesthetic emerging from his new surroundings.
“My brush strokes have gotten more detailed, deliberate, and the overall look is more subdued than before,” said Glover. “Some might call it darker, but I don’t necessarily see it that way.”
Glover has also revisited some of his previous themes – the horses and Geisha’s of his early days as a painter – but with new colors and brushstrokes, as if watching his work evolve before his own eyes.
“I’ve been going back to the familiar – back home – and finding that I don’t belong there anymore, which makes me more receptive to where I am now. It’s a funny thing.”
Home for Glover is the Willamette Valley, where he grew up and lived much of his life. His identity also belongs, in part, to Okinawa, the southern Japanese island where his family has deep roots. Culturally and linguistically distinct from mainland Japan, Okinawa was an autonomous kingdom for much of its history until, in the 1800’s, Japanese forces finalized many years of occupation by dethroning the ruling king and annexing the island. Okinawan language and cultural customs were suppressed in an attempt to forcibly assimilate the island to mainland Japanese culture.
“Being from Okinawa,” Glover explained, “kind of complicates my relationship to Japan.”
For fundamentally different reasons, Glover might also say that being from the west side of Oregon complicates his relationship to the east side of Oregon – not because one is incompatible with the other, but because they are different places with different people and customs. And sometimes, that’s all it takes to throw you off your game for a while.
Lucky for us, Glover agreed to show new work at the Art Center this May, and while he has only hinted at what the content of the show will be, we are certain that whatever he brings will be as fantastical and poignant as his portfolio thus far.
Hirofumi Glover will show his newest work at Arts Center East May 5 – June 2. The exhibit is free and open to the public.