From his boyhood in Texas to now, artist continues to make a statement with jaw-dropping murals
You have to go all the way back to Johnston Middle School in Houston to track the beginning of Nathan Green’s rapidly advancing career. He painted a mural at Johnston, but that was nothing compared to the sprawling example he painted at Westbury High School that covered the wall near the entrance to the campus.
“It was based on the school transitioning into the future,” Green says by phone from New York City, where he now makes his home. “The visual that took you through the whole thing was like a train, from old steam locomotives to commuter trains to futuristic trains.”
He was only a teenager, but his creation still adorns the entrance to Westbury, where, when he wasn’t painting murals, he was busy skateboarding and being a happy-go-lucky man-child.
Now 36, this native of the Bayou City has remained committed to painting striking, vivid murals. He has elevated his reputation as muralist par excellence by painting a giant one at Light Farms, a master-planned community in Celina, 41 miles due north of downtown Dallas.
And he painted one for a waterfront home near Cedar Creek Lake that was so good, so profound in the elegance of its design, that it drew the attention of the Light Farms folks, who couldn’t wait to hire him.
Green is no stranger to the Dallas art community, having served as an artist-in-residence at CentralTrak. He later worked at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth. Now represented by the Barry Whistler Gallery, he is about to be part of a group exhibition at the venue’s new home in the Dallas Design District.
“He’s an energetic, smart young guy who’s got a can-do attitude,” says Whistler, who’s thrilled to have Green be a major player in “Power Lines,” the exhibition he plans for the gallery’s new home in mid-May.
Though it became clear during his Bayou boyhood that Green was destined to be an artist, he sharpened his focus at the University of Texas at Austin. That led to his helping oversee the Camp Fig Gallery in downtown Austin that specialized in contemporary art created by “very young people.”
“It’s where I found myself,” Green says.
After graduating from UT, he worked at the Blanton Museum of Art in Austin before he and a group of friends opened a gallery called Okay Mountain, which was committed to showing “exciting stuff.”
In 2008, Green fell in love with the woman who is now his wife. She had worked at the coffee shop near Okay Mountain. Barista Romance.
So, in 2013, he followed Meg Glausser to Dallas, en route to her obtaining a doctoral degree at UT Southwestern, before she pursued her calling as a family physician. That introduced him to the Dallas art world, where he quickly made a name for himself.
The majority of what he creates, he says, are paintings “that kind of branch into sculpture. I’ve always been drawn to the visual language of modern abstraction. I want to build abstraction but use my hands to do it. I like to take it off the canvas and expand it into three dimensions.”
At times, he says, his work can resemble a mixture of “Home Depot, Hobby Lobby and art history. What I mean by that is, I like the notion of the construction world meeting the craft world meeting the visual language of abstraction.”
The Light Farms project underscores Green’s definition of what he most likes to create. What he produced in the once-rural surroundings of Celina was a bright, geometric mural, inspired by shapes and colors he saw within the community. The Republic Property Group that commissioned his services hoped to introduce original art to its community that managed to blend in with the existing infrastructure of its surroundings.
So, Green painted his mural on a large storage shed at Light Farms, using corrugated steel sheets as his canvas, one that integrated the angular nature of the timber beams imported from upstate New York that make up the information and fitness centers at the complex.
For Green, it’s all part of his own master plan.
“If I had to say I have a goal, it would be to re-examine the history of painting and add to the language of abstraction, to form a new painterly vocabulary.”
He is also adept at making connections. A visitor to his Dallas studio commissioned him to paint a mural in his house. He then created a massive mural at the Cedar Creek Lake home of Dallas real estate agent Sam Saladino and Ken Downing, the globe-trotting fashion director and senior vice president of Neiman Marcus.
Saladino first discovered Green’s work in 2012, after which the two became friends. Saladino saw an Instagram post of Green’s earlier this year of a site-specific installation in Oregon. That led to a visit to the house at Cedar Creek Lake, where Green absorbed the house and its collections, made sketches and took measurements and photographs “for design inspiration.”
The colors of the finished work, Green says, “were sourced from all around the interior, and the design referenced a few textile patterns I honed in on during my visit.” The installation took seven days to execute. Green and two assistants worked virtually around the clock and “drank 1,000 cups of coffee.”
Green describes the Saladino-Downing property as “being like a museum.” So, he designed a mural that captured the essence of their shared artistic sensibility. He covered the walls, the entryway, the ceiling. He loved the feeling it created, of being enveloped by the mural, which punctuates what he calls a “truly breathtaking” High Modernist lake house. He loved the feeling of immersing himself in high culture, then dining at a catfish place “where people were smoking cigarettes inside.”
And yet, there’s a deeper reason for his longing to do murals, at Cedar Creek, Celina or anywhere, for that matter, and you can trace it right back to his days as a boy.
“Mural painting is still one of the things I really love to do,” says Green, who fondly remembers his first mural, at his middle school in Houston. “I really try to jump at every opportunity to do one.”
THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS | PUBLISHED FEBRUARY 15, 2016 | BY MICHAEL GRANDBERRY | ORIGINAL ARTICLE HERE