Rethinking 21st Century American Landscape I (the heart of the matter)

The work is layered with earth. Similar to the natural layering over time – except compressed. In this case it is minutes, hours, and days.  In the time of its existence it is also years, decades, centuries, and millennia.

American Landscape painting, its context, material and technique – brought into the 21st Century. What is 21st Century landscape painting? Does it depict what we see? Or is it experiential, more about essence? Is it the texture of a real moment of being? Is it created, assembled, or painted?

What makes an American landscape painter in this millennium?

A granddaughter of Italian immigrants, inspired greatly by her grandfather Salvatore, who had such an intense desire to have his own land, earth, soil, place – that he left Italy at the age of 20 for “America”.  He came to the US ( Appolonia, my grandmother traveling steerage, followed soon after with my Aunt Carmella then 2 years old in 1910.) never to return to Italy.

Grandpa was an American the moment he landed at Ellis Island. He farmed a small plot of land on Linder Avenue in Jefferson Park when he arrived to Chicago.  He fed his 5 daughters and wife as well as the neighbors. As he and Grandma aged they lived with different daughters over the years where there was a garden at each home. Tomatoes being the most popular. “Plums”, short hand for Plum tomatoes, we called them – what we find in stores today under the title of Roma.  The delight of the day, picking a “plum” heated by the sun off the vine, taking a small bight then adding salt to the top so that it would rest and permeate the surface of the tomato. From this one memory comes essence. An essence of land and a simple and direct experience that comes from it.

My grandfather passed his intense passion for the earth and its essence to me. An Italian American granddaughter with a searing love for land. So much so, that I was the only grandchild to leave Chicago for the West. This is where my land was – my understanding of the essence Grandpa passed on to me. I see my grandfather in every wide open space.  He stands at dawn and at sunset overlooking magnificent vast openness. He also stands in me now 103 years later – often in my studio.

An American landscape painting in the 21st Century. Made of the simplest elements I am able to find. Examining the land, soil, earth, place –working to capture, in my way, what the material symbolizes and what it can provide. A connection to the land that is experiential and recognizing a history; much like the many landscape painters before me except now it is 2013.

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