Wednesday, May 13, 2009

A New Landscape For Awhile

In a little while I will be leaving for a new landscape -the hardwood forests of nearby Connecticut. I will be the artist in residence at Weir Farm Art Center, part of the Weir Farm National Historic Site. Last January I spent a glorious two weeks in the winter wonderland of New Hampshire at MacDowell Colony. This new program will be much different. I'll be the only one in residence, with all the house-keeping, cooking, and what-else performed by yours truly and that's just fine by me. If they'll let me, I may even get to cooking over fire.

What I am most interested in is the immersion in this landscape. I know little about the woods of Connecticut, with only a slight sense of it from drives on the Merritt Parkway. I'm hoping for Beech trees. I like them most in winter when they appear like apparitions in the woods, but I'll take them in late spring without complaint. There are hiking trails through the acres that I will generally have to myself, I think.

The site is surrounded by woods and residential development; not too far from NYC so that it is no doubt part of the tri-state economic zone. The landscape was a farm and artistic retreat for painter J.A. Weir in the late 19th century. Connecticut's farms could seem like a world away in those days, but one must retreat very far from NYC to afford the same kind of tranquility today.

I'm interested in the role of the rural retreat as a nurturer and shaper of art. Most artist residency programs are in locations removed from urban settings. Obviously, its the quiet, the lack of social distraction, the clean air- it can clear your head. But as a landscape painter, I'm more interested in the institution of the bucolic, art retreat and how it reinforces a way of looking at landscape and certainly, at art. The easel painter 'en plein air' is certainly a part of this set of expectations.

Do you remember when Captain Picard would retire to his quarters on the Space Ship Enterprise to paint at his easel. This always made me cringe. This, however, makes me laugh:


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If I do not respond to your comment right away, it is only because I am busy pulling out buckthorn, creeping charlie, and garlic mustard...