Don Coen’s life journey to become an influential contemporary artist began at a very early age while growing up on his family farm in Lamar, Colorado. Raised without a television, the young Coen began at the early age of five designing and building his own toys and drawing by kerosene lamps at night around the kitchen table. From those quiet nights until the present, Don’s work has been inspired by his experience working the land with his family and several Latino families that lived and worked alongside Coen throughout his childhood and early adult years.
Don’s arduous life on the farm unveiled a deep love and connection to the surreal beauty of the eastern Colorado plains and to the people that worked the land. His ability to see this landscape in its entirety began and continues to result in powerful artworks that capture the landscape, people, and fauna that represent the American plains.
Throughout his career, Coen’s work has been featured in numerous exhibitions and recognized by many publications, awards and museums. His work is widely collected throughout the world and part of permanent collections of many prominent museums.
Much of his early work in the 1960’s and 1970’s, while living in Boulder, was both abstract, and non-objective. It was in the early 1980’s, when returning to his family farm that he decided to dedicate the next significant part of his life to capturing the spirit of his homelands. He began photographing and painting oversize images in a bold and unprecedented manner, illuminating this visually beautiful and economically vital part of our nation’s production landscape.
“The Lamar Series” is a visual chronicle of everyday life within these rural American landscapes. A powerful statement of universal realization and intense reverence for life is created by Coen’s telling of the forgotten beauty and reality of farm life through fifteen oversized canvases.
The harmony of the agricultural fields, plains, grain feeders and livestock are unveiled by exposing the complex, often overlooked, dualities that exist everyday on the rural American farm. Coen’s large-scale paintings are surreal with a remarkably soft focus when viewed at close proximity but become riveting with life when viewed from a distance. “The Lamar Series” was embraced by the art community, traveling to multiple museums throughout the Midwest by the Mid-America Arts Alliance and purchased for permanent and private collections throughout the world.
Coen’s works continues to evolve and elevate our collective consciousness about our modern agricultural traditions. As an extensive and poignantly timely evolution from “The Lamar Series” and “Images of Contemporary Rural America”, Coen has begun documenting the American migrant worker. These workers are responsible for supplying much of the produce found in our supermarkets, co-ops and restaurants, yet there exists very little connection between the consumer and these vibrant people who work and harvest by hand. Coen traveled extensively throughout the nation, meeting, photographing and ultimately painting the migrant culture and the landscapes they work in. This new riveting series of large-scale canvases captures the lives and spirit of America’s contemporary migrant workers and can only truly be experienced in person.
Coen’s goal with the “Migrant Series” is to raise the consciousness of America to this very overlooked yet vital part of our society and to give the migrant workers an identity and voice through his paintings. Like “The Lamar Series”, this new work portrays the dualities of the spirits and worlds we often drive by or do not care to notice or research. Exposing the spirit of America’s migratory labor and the human spirit, Coen’s work inspires us to take notice, to respond and to care about these incredible people, their lives and contributions to our society.
The potential and power of the series is difficult to conceive considering the political climate we live in. The time to introduce this work on a large scale is now. The Migrant Series will open in September 2014 at the Phoenix Art Museum. We are in the planning stages of setting up a tour. The Museum is also planning on a book on the Migrant Series.