September 2023
Buddy Plumlee, Chicago Artist

Buddy received formal training at Scuola Lorenzo de Medici in Florence, Italy, where he immersed himself in Renaissance art and traditional studio practices. He loves the detail in narrative work, where images and setting provide an allegorical telling of his version of the subject’s sometimes hidden story; he brings to the canvas a biographical writer’s illuminating touch. Buddy Plumlee received a BFA degree from Illinois State University in 1989, an MS degree in painting and drawing from ISU in 1991, and an MFA degree in painting and drawing from The University of Iowa in 1993. Buddy is a teaching artist, and currently teaches art at Elgin High School. He, his wife Christy and their four children live in West Chicago along with their painfully shy dog Elio.

“I paint the faces of those people closest to me, the ones that define my life and who I am. I paint them in familiar places, places with meaning, the centers of our world. I paint them so that I won’t forget them, and they won’t forget me. I paint my wife’s face so that our children will not forget her love for them. And I paint my face as a way to preserve a memory of me long after I am gone. The fear of being alone, of being forgotten, and worst of all of me forgetting even the tiniest detail of those who mean the most to me is a far greater concern than death itself. My paintings are narrative portraiture and biographical in nature. They reflect the intimacy and deep understanding I have with my subjects. They are also meant to remind us about the importance of compassion and forgiveness and the responsibility we all share to preserve human dignity. It is through those paintings that I hope to capture the growth and essence of a person, and the spiritual connection I have with them.”

Buddy Plumlee’s Website | Buddy Plumlee on Instagram

Monarch, oil on linen, 22×28

This is a portrait of my daughter Sarah. Monarch butterflies have special meaning for those of us who live in West Chicago. More than half our residents have family roots in Michoacan, Mexico, where the monarch butterfly originates. Images of monarch butterflies are ubiquitous in our town and their cultural significance has become interwoven with our own identity even though we have no family connection to Michoacan. The painting is meant to document a memorable autumn afternoon spent with my daughter hiking through prairie grass near the Union Pacific yards where we found numerous monarchs. The distinct stages of the life of a monarch reminds me of the stages my daughter has gone through growing up. And like a monarch, my daughter’s beauty and delicate nature co-exist with an inner drive and strength to persevere and find her way.

Ash Wednesday, oil on canvas,18×25
Rosary, oil on canvas, 24″ x 20″
The Freeze, oil on panel, 24×24
Prime, oil on panel, 24×24
Baron Miguel with Hat, oil on canvas, 28×22
Washington Crossing the Union Pacific, oil and mixed media on panel, 36×36
Prairie State Saga, oil on canvas, 62×48
In 1992 this painting started out as a dysfunctional pump inside the heart of a decaying Greek column. It was meant to be a critique of Western civilization. Over the years I added and subtracted imagery, reflecting on the state of the world at that given moment. Then I put it away for about fifteen years. Five years ago I pulled it out of storage, wiped off the thick layer of dust and began working on it again. When my son Miguel was young he liked to walk around the house shirtless and wearing snow pants for some reason. The oddness and incongruity of that intrigued me. So I placed that image of him in the painting. It is a double portrait: My son Miguel and the dysfunctional pump inside the decaying Greek column, and placed within an apparently infertile landscape. The harbinger crow arrives just as a white dove flees. What is in his future? Are these flat prairie lands fertile ground anymore, or is the hope for a purposeful and fulfilling life for younger generations diminished and now a thing of the past?
Marie Christina and Her Box of Good Will, oil on canvas 30×36
Beni with Robin, oil on panel, 24×20
Protecting the Den, oil on canvas, 30×26
Benjie with Shaman Mask, oil on canvas, 30×26
Benjie at Kindred, oil on panel, 24×24
War Paint, oil on canvas, 30×18
This is a portrait of my son Baron. We call him by his middle name, which is Miguel. It is in reality three portraits: My son’s literal representation (sensitive, defiant, unsure of himself), the red face on his chest (his hard to contain inner warrior), and the building in the background with the round window, which represents a kind of third eye, maybe my eye watching over him. I had struggled with this painting for over a year until I finally decided on the setting, which is a curious 19th century carriage house behind St. Vincent de Paul. He is the most complex of all my children and probably my favorite subject to paint.
Sarah and her Peculiar Sweater, oil on panel, 24×24
Checking the Seam, oil on canvas, 26×30