Sunday, July 29, 2012

Landscapes Are Political

I don't want to alienate, like so much art seems to want to do these days.  It seems it must do that in order to be taken seriously.  Not that I don't see how simplistic, or sentimental, or facile art can disappoint.  I get that, and I get wanting to see art that is a departure.

Yet I want to make paintings that bring people close to nature.  That shuts a gap, not widens it.  So alienation is decidedly not my bag.

But I think that abstraction or distortion can facilitate bringing the colors, movement, and forms of nature closer -- as in some of Wolf Kahn's and Joan Mitchell's work.  Where others alienate with cloying exactitude, Kahn's and Mitchell's abstractions make nature live.  Beyond what they do, or maybe short of it, I'm interested in place, and mood.  Not that Kahn and Mitchell don't create mood -- but I want place-related mood, and emotion.  (I might respond with some minimal emotion to a black vertical line, but if it's in a context that suggests it's a tree, I'm probably going to feel more.)

Somewhere along the way, it seems, landscape and nature painting became considered apolitical and therefore naive, or useless.  I don't buy it.  For me, it's extremely political.  Read about how the North American hardwood forests are disappearing, or try to find somewhere to paint and watch it get bulldozed and smothered with McMansions.  It's political.

These losses make me feel like I'm losing my grip on my soul.  Painting these places is an attempt to make those places necessary, to make it clear that they are necessary.  Maybe that can't be done in paint.  I think it can:  Monet's water lily paintings do that for me.  Maybe I can't do it in paint.  But it's worth trying.

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