Title

Sky well

Date of Award

Spring 6-2-2018

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Fine Arts (MFA)

Department

Painting

First Advisor

Kevin Zucker

Second Advisor

Jackie Gendel

Third Advisor

Roger White

Abstract

Since the era of Romanticism, landscape painting has fallen into three aesthetic forms of representation: the Pastoral, the Picturesque, and the Sublime. This last form celebrates the awe and fear that arises through human encounters with nature. Many contemporary critics dismiss the Natural Sublime, claiming either that technology has replaced nature as a source of the sublime, or that humankind’s present-day destruction of nature prevents our also standing in awe of it. I disagree with both arguments. To me, humanity’s disruption of Earth’s ecosystems does not impede an individual’s experience of exhilaration witnessing, say, a volcanic eruption. And modern technology has deepened our knowledge of nature—from the tiniest subatomic particles to the vast recesses of outer space—giving us countless new occasions for reverence. My work is a reinterpretation of the genre of landscape and the Natural Sublime. Though they appear representational, the works are actually highly abstracted spaces, devoid of spatial perspective. They also move away from the traditional picture plane as a framing device, and embrace ephemerality in both material and method.

My newest works navigate between two spaces—the near and the far—and between two scales—the micro and the macro. They invite the viewer to move between a sense of visual stillness and one of motion. And by compressing disparate images (the night sky and the stony ground) into a single visual space, they offer a simultaneous experience of the temporal and the infinite.

My work has a strong sense of tactility and has obviously been touched by hand many times. These works embody ideas about the ephemeral nature of existence, and the presence of the artist’s hand is meant to make these abstractions more accessible. The works are also highly detailed and evidence considerable labor, suggesting by analogy the time it has taken for the objects depicted—these stars and stones—to come into being. Meticulous hand work is complemented by the use of printmaking to create, through an indirect process, the highly varied texture and detail one sees in natural surfaces. My use of printmaking mimics nature in another way: each plate is printed just once; like a leaf, each print is a unique mark.

My imagery explores objects we regard as permanent but are not, and this temporal quality is reflected in how my drawings are made. My work strives for the presence and visual weight of an object: I create an enveloping dark density in my drawings, which on a large scale, creates a kind of monument to nature. Along with this stately presence is a fragility and temporality embodied in the materials, in particular my use of paper. I am also experimenting with work that is ephemeral in that it is site-determined but not permanent, changing as it is installed in other sites.

Through its immense scale, ephemerality, and lack of visual spatial perspective, my work separates itself from the aesthetics of pastoral and picturesque categories of landscape painting to participate in the contemporary conversation about representation, abstraction, and materiality, and to reinterpret the subject of the Natural Sublime in painting.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

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Painting Commons

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