Galer lives an uncompromising Bohemian lifestyle in one of
the world’s most beautiful spots, a natural choice
for a painter who specializes in breathtaking landscapes.
Both Galer and his paintings are colorful and could easily
become pigeon-holed into simple categories, which unfortunately
would cheat the subjects of a deservingly more complex analysis.
What I realized after talking with him and his twelve-year
old son, Andreas, about art, music and living in Moab is that
Galer seems to have achieved a quasi-Utopian lifestyle combining
freedom and responsibility to just the right measure.
There is a children’s story entitled Harold and the Purple
Crayon, in which a boy creates his world by drawing it. Galer
has achieved the same feat by pursuing his music and art through
this unstructured lifestyle. The result is a body of work that
reflects an intuitive ability to represent his perception and
love of nature.
Galer has taught himself how to paint by looking at books,
visiting galleries and talking to other artists. Ultimately,
he has mastered this form by doing. The variety of styles in
his portfolio reflects his ability to embrace things untried;
fear does not impede his experimentation. He paints primarily
in oils, and his use of strokes, layering, scratches or “whatever
works in the moment” has resulted in a myriad of representational
and abstract pieces.
Some of his landscapes are so realistic that they appear to
be photographs. My first encounter with a series depicting
red rock landscapes against perfect cloud strewn azure skies
was at the Desert Bistro, the upscale restaurant in town and
one of the places where Galer’s work is displayed. I
found myself doing the one-step-forward-one-step-back dance
trying to figure out whether it was a painting or photograph,
and then admiring the effect.
to depict skies, stormy and calm, so vividly and accurately
is one of his signature trademarks. Even in some of his partially
abstract works or dreamscapes, he paints a realistic sky
as the background. In “Nightflight,” a black
and white crane soars poetically through a cloud strewn starry
night. The elements of the painting, moon, clouds, sky and
bird, all look so real; it is the composition that imbues
this work with fantasy.
Although the majority of Galer’s paintings depict recognizable
landscapes, he obviously enjoys tricking the eye and playing
with the viewer’s expectations. In one painting, he
depicts the texture and color of the rock so realistically,
yet the rest of the work is more stylized. In another, the
sky is represented in photo-like precision while the foreground
reveals brush strokes.
play an important role in Galer’s compositions,
evident in both his landscapes and non-representational
paintings. In many of his rockscapes, he depicts triangular
arches and jutting spires or cactus limbs. These same
shapes reappear in his abstract works.
By using various shades of indigo, he created several works
that appear completely abstract on the outset. On closer
examination, the viewer can discern in one painting the bony
vertebral ridge and wings of a dragon, who blends into the
misty background. In another painting, a world of miniature
flora appears to emerge out of the abstract swirls. These
works reflect Galer’s intuitive approach to art, and
ultimately life. He describes the process he uses by revealing
that “I let the paint run and I follow.”
Galer is clearly not a laissez-faire painter in the Pollock
tradition of bringing paint to canvas and letting physics
take over. Although he may not have a preconceived notion
of how he wants his paintings to turn out, he does exert
his will while allowing the paint and his ideas some free
reign. This exertion reflects some of the influences that
play on Galer’s art, including Asian and Native American
has a penchant for early Chinese paintings, particularly
evident in a recent series of small landscapes depicting
arches in limited tones. The black-and-white effect combined
with the strong spontaneous strokes he created by using
a palette knife imbue the four works with a Zen atmosphere.
Another series he continues to create is realistically reproducing
pictographs of the Anasazi. He creates his own rock slate
out of glue and other unexpected materials and reproduces
the ochre colors of the red rocks and the stylistic Native
American symbols so accurately, he has received accolades
in the form of criticism, berating him for “chipping
off these panels.”
is a perpetual student of art and music, always drawing
inspiration from what he sees and hears. He claims that
he approaches art by “evoking the Muse and then
getting out of the way,” but that description shortchanges
the mastery of painting he has earned, not through formal
training, but through practice and study on his own.
I cannot imagine Galer pursuing traditional schooling in
art because he not only has so much natural ability, but
also because he has such a keen intuition. Formal classes
would have probably stifled that awareness more than brought
out other skills. By renouncing the traditional acquisitions
most adults encumber themselves with as life advances, Galer
has freed himself up to pursue a simplified life where art
and music take center stage.
Rod Galer displays his work at Petra Gallery, 83 E. Center
Street, (435) 259-7002 and at The Desert Bistro 1226 Hwy
191, (435) 259-0756.