Petrified Forest, Relationships Grouped: Natural Monuments

As I have been stumbling to explain, my plein air experience is infinitely larger, more amazing and important, than my plein air paintings. It’s inevitable, the smells, the sights, the history, the culture, geology, geography, the wind and sun and sky — only tiny bits of this can be encompassed in any single painting. And so, trying to give a slightly greater insight into the experiences of the paintings, I have grouped seventeen of them from the Petrified Forest into five “sets.”  My hope is that each of these sets has its own “verse” which then resounds into a greater chorus of the whole.

I’m going to go through the sets, one at a time, over the next couple of weeks. This is set #1, Natural Monuments:

Natural Monuments: Petrified Logs, The Tepees, Blue Mesa Hoodoo, Oil on masonite, 2010

These are all paintings I’ve shown previously as individual paintings. These three have a similarity of style, which is due to the way I painted them, of course, but is also related to the nature of the formations themselves. The Logs are the smallest of the “monuments,” being about 3 — 5 feet in length. The Tepees are the largest, perhaps 200–300 feet high. The Hoodoos are perhaps 6 –8 feet. And yet each stands apart from its neighbors, forming some kind of isolated grandeur. The logs are not eroded; they are hard minerals. But the hoodoo and the Tepees are both part of the formations that wind and water sculpt and shape, the hoodoos of hardish sandstone, the Tepees of concentrated ash and clay.

So these are all of a kind and yet differentiated and isolated, grand in their separate ways. As the first set, they practically chose themselves.

In general, the pulling together of the sets was remarkably easy. In part, the colors helped choose the sets, but in part, the landscape and environment forced the style of the painting.

This is the formalists’ heresy, that the style comes from outside the painter. Yet, for the plein air painter not to be manipulated by the  scene she is painting seems unfathomable to me. Just as I manipulate the scene, the scene forces me to paint in particular ways. It’s a mutual act, which results in a third thing — neither my vision nor the landscape itself, but something that is a force from both.

More next time. –June

In the continuation, I have the separate views of each of these paintings.

The Blue Mesa Hoodoo, 16 x 12″, oil on masonite, 2011.

Petrified Logs, 16 x 12″, Oil on masonite, 2010

The Tepees, 24 x 12″, oil on masonite, 2010

This entry was posted in Art, commentary, landscape, oil painting, Petrified Forest National Park, plein air, Representational painting and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Petrified Forest, Relationships Grouped: Natural Monuments

  1. Sheila says:

    Yes, the virtual conversations are a bit limiting and it would be better to be discussing this in your studio, perhaps with a cup of coffee or tea in hand. I have no problem looking at this series and seeing your style in them (oh look – it’s an Underwood!), although perhaps tamed down more in some than others. I’m with you, though, on your general premise. Yes, the artist does her share of transforming, but I do think some subjects do a lot of transforming of the artist. Perhaps it’s what leads some artists to think they have more than one style?


  2. june says:

    Hi Sheila,

    Here, the heresy is even more complicated, I think, but the complications only show up when various of these sets are looked at together. The vision, the reality, and the painting are at least three different items. But the heresy is that the reality will determine the style; many theories insist that the artist must inform and transform everything she presents, so the viewer can instantly recognize: “Oh, that’s a Barnes.”

    But when the scene dictates as strongly or stronger than the artist, the style gets muckled over. The scene can dictate the style. This becomes sort of obvious (at least to me) when I look at the groupings on my design wall, where the “Natural Monuments” are seen against the “Human Monuments” (the latter are buildings). And the wide landscapes are very different than these close-up simplified figures.

    I’m just blathering on, of course, because your comments always make me want to engage in conversations, actual as well as virtual. But virtual will have to do:-)


  3. Sheila says:

    I like this grouping – a lot of strength in the images.

    I’d have to agree with your heresy theory too. I can feel it even working with textiles. Something happens between vision and reality, between what you think you are portraying and what actually shows up on the surface. It’s the point of making art, don’t you think?


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s