TRIBUTE TO GEORGE TOOKERI wish to acknowledge the lifetime work of the artist George Tooker. Earlier this month, President Bush presented him with the National Medal of Arts, our Nation's highest and most prestigious award for artistic excellence.
George Tooker, born in New York City, is a resident of Hartland, VT. After studying English literature at Harvard and then studying painting at the Art Students League of New York, he found a world of modern possibilities in the medieval and Renaissance medium of egg tempera, helping to begin a revitalization of that technique. The choice of egg tempera gave his paintings an archaic and otherworldly feel, creating wonderfully rich juxtapositions as Tooker often used contemporary subjects and circumstances as the theme of his work. For instance, many of his paintings convey images of modernity and alienation while using colors, surface finishes, and techniques that hearken back to the long tradition of art history. But they do more, of course; the reference to that long tradition of culture foregrounds the current manifestations of that culture, which George Tooker addresses as his subject.
Although some have seen elements of fantasy in his paintings, George Tooker has been explicit; he seeks not an escape into a dream world but, rather, the creation of a new approach to realism. I am after painting reality impressed on the mind so hard that it returns as a dream, but I am not after painting dreams as such, or fantasy,'' he once said.
His haunting works often highlight the increased social isolation that has accompanied the pressures of modernization on everyday life. He deals with society and its very real consequences; although many of his paintings retain a magical and stylized feel, at their heart are images that have the capacity to reveal and reflect many of the deepest feelings each viewer of Tooker's work encounters in his or her own life in the contemporary world.
I commend Mr. George Tooker for his important contributions to American art and congratulate him on receiving the National Medal of Arts. We in Vermont are proud of his accomplishment.