Farmland, 36 x 43, painted cotton

I have lived many places, and in each, I have always had a strong sense of the place itself — the trees and plants, the nature of the cultivated earth, the nature of the uncultivated earth, the sky, winds, air, light — I can describe all these with a fair amount of detail.

But I seldom had to try to recap in art what I know about a place where I no longer live. However, now I am doing so.

“Paint what’s around you,” seems to be a sound admonition, but what is around me is the opposite, environmentally speaking, of what I am painting.

I live in Portland, Oregon, a small American city in which the streets lie in grids and the foliage is heavy, dense, green, overwhelming the sidewalks and enveloping houses. The lush warm climate makes geraniums grow like bushes and Firethorn take over the yard.

But — I’m trying to stay immersed in and make art from the other side of the Cascade Mountains, a high dry land which smells of dust and sage, where each plant has its own space in which to grow. Sometimes I feel like I’m being tugged and torn by opposing visions, smells, sights, memories.

Here’s a couple of street scenes from Portland Oregon in June:
Portland Red Trees


And here’s a 2002 piece based on these streetscapes. It’s called Where I Live and is discharged and appliqued cotton.

Here are other photos from Portland.


And the piece below, from 2003, is Consider the Horse Chestnut, is 39 by 50 “, digitized and pieced computer prints on silk.

Those pieces were done in 2002 and 2003, before I became enamored of the landscapes of the high desert.

Below are photos from my current obsession: the photos are from the John Day Fossil Beds in eastern Oregon, across the wild Cascades, in the land of rabbit brush, rattlesnakes, sage brush and cows.


And here is some art that I’ve done from these places: below is a piece called Above the Cant Ranch, 28 x 38, painted cotton.

And below is The Mother of Us All, 53 x 55 inches, painted silk.


I’ve been fascinated by the variety of “takes” that people on Art and Perception have on their own senses of place. Some of the artists here work out of very specific scapes. Richard, Steve, Doug are all exploring physical forms that they encounter. But Karl and Angela seem to be working out of memory and imagination and stored visuals, which they combine to form new uncanny landscapes and shapes. Sunil works from images he sees in the media; Jay plays jazz-like rifts on items he comes across or thinks about. Leslie makes use of our heritage in the visual arts.

How do Karl and Angela maintain their vision of their figures through the various incarnations. Can Steve make the Bitteroot mountains, encased with air, follow what he has done with the solidity of the rocks of the Anazasi?

Meyer Shapiro says that Cezanne “is attached to the directly seen world as his sole object for meditation. He believes — as most inventive artists after him cannot do without some difficulty or doubt — that the vision of nature is a necessary ground for art.”

Is the vision of nature a necessary ground for your art?