Saturday, October 21, 2006

George Denninger The Artist

By Lynndi Lockenour

The room is dim. Among the diffused light are the piercing images of nature in George Denninger’s art gallery. Simple bulbs illuminate the works as the colors spring forth from the paper, bold and true. It is a place to think about the images surrounding everyone- the tree on the hill we pass five times a day and the “weeds” in the front yard.

Denninger opened his art gallery, located at 115 North Main Street in St. Charles, unofficially last November, though most people didn’t begin visiting until his grand opening during the art walk last April.

Denninger’s artistic revelations began to materialize some twenty years ago while attending an exhibition of living artists at New York’s Museum of Modern Art. Despite his appreciation for the eminent works, he was bothered by the overall negative undertone throughout the exhibit. “I began focusing less on the pieces themselves, and more on the reactions of the people looking at them,” he said. “To me that was more interesting.”

Thus began Denninger’s fascination with the mental-visual connection. “I started thinking about how everyone’s reactions to the art might have been different if it were all positive, rather than negative,” he said.

To test this theory, Denninger began collecting art and conducted his own art show. All images included carried a positive message, though no titles or nametags accompanied the works. Denninger said he watched as people began looking at the art. The differences between the reactions he said he witnessed that night and the night at the museum were dramatic. “People were so much happier,” he said. “Nearly all of the people mentioned the word ‘God’ afterward when I spoke with them.”

It took Denninger three years to make his lifelong dream of opening a gallery into a reality. He said he wanted his gallery to illustrate a response, not just a reaction. “This gallery is my response to the world and the things I’m living,” he said.

Trained as a mechanical engineer, with a Masters Degree from Stanford University, Denninger said he has always been interested in art. After approaching his parents about wanting to pursue his dream in the art world, he was discouraged from doing so. “My parents said artists were poor,” he said, “And they wanted me to do something else.”

Denninger moved to the St. Louis area in 1982 where he landed a job designing tradeshows. In 1992, while attending one of these tradeshows, he saw an introduction on the first computers capable of rendering 3-D images. “That moment changed my life I think,” he said.

Soon after, Denninger got a job designing 3-D images for the tradeshows. “During all of this time I was making art in my free time,” he said. At one point he traveled out west to have his art appraised and see if it would actually sell. It did.

Denninger creates art through a variety of mediums, including digital paintings, art furniture and sculpture. The gallery is primarily filled with inspirational digital paintings he creates through a process of laying, using Photoshop and other such digital imaging programs. Also on display is a piano sculpture Denninger created in 1977. The piano was exhibited at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Smithsonian’s Renwick Gallery in Washington D.C. Three of these pianos are part of the Metropolitan’s permanent collection.

Denninger first began creating digital art some four years ago. In addition to the original creations themselves being for sell, he has created a line of note cards using the same images. “The digital aspect allows me to share things, yet keep them at the same time,” he said. “You can’t do that with an oil painting.”

Each original work is accompanied by it’s own unique, hand-painted frame, constructed specifically to accompany that particular piece. “This is not a factory just because I use a digital medium,” Denninger said. “It is just that I am now able to share my art more than I ever did when I was working with oils.”

Seeing the space more as a studio than a gallery, Denninger said he eventually wants it to be more of showroom. “I want people to see the art I’ve already created,” he said. “Then at the same time, maybe they’ll be a space of creation area for me where everything people see isn’t quit finished yet.”

Thinking, said Denninger, is what draws people to his studio. “Looking at the pictures forces people to think,” he said. “If only for a few moments.” It is this thinking process that has so inspired Denninger for years. “I wondered what makes people look at art and say it’s beautiful,” he said.

Until opening the gallery and watching others observe his work, Denninger said he, along with most other people, never really think about thinking. “Now I want to cultivate that awareness of the thought process,” he said. “What you think about translates into what you do.”

With this in mind, Denninger creates digital positive representations of nature, using flowers, trees, birds, streams, and lakes to convey a spiritual energy. “I discovered that it’s about positive imagery,” he said. “There is hope, joy and goodness in the world and all of these things need to extend beyond visual representations.”

Each work Denninger creates is designed with one overarching message. To help create this, he adds the complexity of the English language to the mix; including a small message printed on white note cards with each image. Because all the elements are there – the visual and the verbal, Denninger said it makes for a clearer, more pure experience. “I wanted to share the verbal message with the visual,” he said. “It adds something that the image alone would not encompass.”

Anticipating expansion in the future, Denninger said his art form may change, but he will always be around. “I feel as though I’m just getting started and this is the beginning of everything,” he said.

**For more information on George Denninger and his artwork, or for information about his art gallery please visit or call 636-256-6555.