The art of Jay Pfeifer is defined more by his material and his long familiarity with them than by any preconceived themes or designs. From the building sites and construction zones of his everyday work life, he gathers the raw components — lath, sand, joint, compound, roofing paper, even coffee grounds and motor oil — which are melded and transformed into the rich forms and vistas of his “paintings,” the term he prefers. Raised in the breadbasket country of Buffalo, North Dakota, Pfeifer now resides in nearby Fargo, in the heart of the Red River Valley, 10,000 square miles of bountiful, flat-as-a-tabletop farmland.
His methods provide a protean means of addressing the scene; a fretwork of glazed sand might suggest a distant fenceline or, at second glance, an enormous grid of cropland as seen from the air; a stroke of rust — residue from a soaking trowel — might be seen as a dry creekbed, an autumn thicket, or the redness of the evening sky. Having begun under the economy of thrift, using only the supplies he could salvage, and thus afford, Pfeifer now instills in his paintings an economy of statement and purpose, the golden mean of the accomplished artist. There is warmth here, and stirring of loss, of home, of slightly remembered ideals, as if these primal textures and earthen tones might portend the presence of some broader landscape, the shared memory of some larger world.
In this, Pfeifer obviously partakes of the creation of myth: from water to wine, from lead to purest ore – common to the wider range of painters and sculptors. The singular alchemy of a Pfeifer work is how his roughest of scavengings, the sticks and the pastes, the scraps of the waste, have been so effectively recast as an artifact — as an art — of an idyllic, iconic realm.