Right now, I am on the train from Amsterdam, NY back to New York City. I was visiting my Aunt and Uncle at their cabin in the Adirondacks for a few days before heading off to Italy.
I wrote in my last post about abstraction, realism, and what realist painting does that abstract painting does not. Namely, realist painting tells the viewer specifically what original experience of nature (reality) inspired the particular beauty expressed in a painting. In other words, a waterfall could inspire and abstract work of art, but the viewer would not necessarily know that the waterfall was the inspiration.
So, as a painter, I cite my references. I say, “Look at the visual beauties in this tree!” (All hail to the tree.) Also, usually, it’s not just “the tree.” It’s “the maple tree at the corner of 17th St. between 8:30 and 10 o’clock on a Sept. morning.”
Particular experience. So, I’ve explained how I think about painting and realism. Perhaps, in light of my explanation of realism, I should explain plein air painting (which is, basically, painting of a particular experience).
All of my paintings, at least at this point in time, are plein air paintings. This means that I paint on the spot from which I view my scene – as opposed to either photographing or doing studies of the scene and then completing the finished painting in my studio. I may return to the spot more than once, but usually on a few consecutive days and at the same time of day. So, my paintings are of THIS particular view, at THIS particular time of day, and in THIS particular season. So, here are the two paintings completed these last two days in Mayfield, NY:
The first was painted on Friday morning by the side of the road and depicts a corn field and trees. The second was painted on Saturday morning (today) in my Aunt and Uncle’s gazebo (while listening to the daily news, my aunt, and War and Peace – not all at once).
So, why should you care about the beauty that I see in a particular view of a particular place at a particular time? You are not at your Aunt and Uncle’s cabin. You may not even like corn fields and trees or boats on a lake. (Although, if you don’t, you’re weird and probably not reading my blog – unless you are my brother Timothy who hates trees but still loves me.) Yes, but you also have particular visual experiences in your life. Everyone has moments when he *could* stop and experience beauty in the visual experience presented to him. In DC, for instance, I sometimes stop in alleys and admire the silhouettes of buildings. The human experience of being arrested by beauty at a particular time and place is a common one. A lot could be said about this experience, but let us assume for the moment that the experience speaks for itself as a great good.
Think of my paintings, then, as a reference to this experience. They are an invitation to enter into my experience and, by so doing, become aware of the potential for being arrested by beauty in your own experience. Obviously, other people do this without having paintings in their lives to show them how to do it, but people do lots of things like build houses or solve mental health problems without architects and therapists. That doesn’t mean that architects and therapists don’t help people. In the same way, people can see beauty without paintings, but paintings can also help people to see more beauty.