John Botts (1933 – 2003)

John Botts was a painting teacher at University of Toledo School of Design at the Toledo Museum of Art from 196_ to 1982? He was born in Knoxville, Tennessee on October 14, 1933, and studied painting at Bowling Green State University. He painted large colorfield paintings using stencils and airbrush. Paul Cezanne, along with his interest in Japanese and Chinese paintings had influenced his work.

Charismatic, philosophical, and Jean-Paul Belmondoesque, Botts influenced a generation of art students, including me.

He moved to California in the 1980’s, then to New Mexico, where he died of liver cancer in 2003. The only mention of John Botts on the web was a poem by his friend who was also a teacher at UT, Steve McMath, written shortly after he died, along with this account of his death:

“In the middle of a conversation with friends, he turned to his wife and said – I have to leave now. A few minutes later, he raised his arms to a presence in the room that only he saw, and said, I’m very happy to see you. Shortly after that, he fell asleep.”

His paintings are in the collection of the Owens Corning Fiberglas art collection. This is one:

Toledo Blade, December 9, 1968

Artist Statement:

In the large paintings of 1968, consisting of transparent areas of color moving into each other, the attention is sometimes to the single image and its possibilities as a structure of parts; in other cases the attention is to the manner in which the color areas pierce the empty ground, in which cases the empty canvas becomes as important or more important in its structure than the color areas.

The interest in color is always present. A simple comment might be that where color seems least present, or most lacking in intensity, one finds more color.

If the paintings ‘mean’ anything, they are all landscape. Even where there is no attempt to depict the illusion of real space, they remain images from landscape. I do not make paintings to be anything; they simply emerge as this or that thing. And if the viewer finds nothing but a singular sense of beauty in front of a painting, it would seem to be enough.

There is only a single reason for painting a painting: because one wishes to paint a painting, no more.

–from a Memorandum to Mike Ryan from Kathy Lee, November 21, 1968, Toledo Museum of Art Library Vertical File.