Derek Courtney spent the first 18 years of his life in Putnam County, West Virginia before moving to Omaha, Nebraska. He studied at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, completing his BFA thesis in 1996. He was deeply inspired by art teacher Caryl Toth, who taught him to make art from any and every available resource. To this day, Derek prefers to paint on paper.

Derek’s art starts with recognizable forms that are gradually painted away, emerging as abstract, pulsing amalgamations of colors, shapes, and textures. As a means of avoiding the thematic pigeon-hole, he obscures figurative clarity with abstract layers. Only mere fragments of the original content are allowed to remain.

Using oil paints, pastels, oil sticks, vintage blueprints, old city maps, silkscreens and old painting scraps, Derek builds his surfaces. With an x-ray, one might see underpaintings dealing with systems: human vs the environment, production vs depletion, individuals vs corporations. Smokestacks overshadowing a small-town West Virginia landscape are gradually erased layer by layer with paint and collage. The final compositions do not clearly expose the potential grief or regret-filled undertones, but it is clear that an emotional download has found a resting place. The viewer might need to work for it, but it’s all there.

Currently Derek spends his days earning a living as a cog in the wheel of a very large machine. Any free time he can wrangle is devoted to his family and making art at the Caesium Gallery, a gallery space that Derek co-manages with Mike Scheef in South Omaha.