Does landscape art communicate meaning?
Landscape is an art genre often given less importance historically and might be assumed to simply provide a view of a beautiful scene, a nostalgic or recognizable sense of place. But I believe that landscape art today should be an important voice calling for better care of the Earth. Look, the world we think we know is changing right before our eyes. Damaged ecosystems the world over are changing and becoming inhospitable to the life they once cradled. We must finally acknowledge our responsibility to be honest, good, and wise stewards of this planet and its resources so that Earth’s interdependent ecologies may recover balance and remain perpetually sustaining. In the long view, what other issue can take precedence to our very survival?
My paintings are landscapes that deliver the message of attention to this shared human responsibility. I shape wood panels to form a sculptural presence, then add a painted, layered treatment, echoing the codependent strata of the ecosystem’s interrelated elements. These layers are the reflection of the ages of built-up use (or abuse) that civilization has imposed on the platform of the land. My layers of gestural brushstrokes alternating with geometric forms show humanity’s repeatedly built-up structures on nature’s base. As the archeologists’ work in a land dig reveal the details of past eras, the painted layers in these abstract landscapes also reveal rhythms of life: work to rest, thinking to dreaming, play to constraint, joyful abandon to serious struggle. This is landscape painting that is more than a recording of light to describe a subject. These successive painted layers create an arrangement of perceived space for the viewer that recedes from and/or progresses before the picture-plane surface. I want to be as attentive to this perceived spatial composition of forms as I am to the regular two-dimensional surface composition. The viewpoint is analogous to maps, aerial photos, satellite images or weather charts that are aimed perpendicular to the land. Each painting is a story that is told by the shapes and colors that reference a multitude of associations from one’s experience. Through these associations, an image showing that which is (the here-and-now) can take shape for the viewer and allude to what may be (our future).
Along with the abstract landscapes, I also produce traditional landscape paintings that are exercises in direct observation. Through this work I receive an intimate connection to the natural world, its forms, colors, and relationships. Plein air painting does show the beauty that is inherent in nature, giving joy and pleasure to the viewer. I think it should also be unambiguous in motivating us towards preservation and good stewardship of our Earth. Whenever the two styles are displayed together, I feel that the traditional landscape exercises amplify the effect of my abstract shaped landscape panels. My work in these two genres are linked together - through me, their creator. In a much more significant way, our planet and our vocation for its care are also linked together - by the Creator of all.