I just returned from a canoe trip 68 miles down the Green River in Utah. It was a wonderful experience, with trials ,efforts and amazing paybacks. The American Southwest is an astonishing landscape unlike anywhere else on earth. Most other vistas go off to the skyline in a horizontal line, even if there are hills or mountains, but not the Red Rocks areas. It is vast vertical faces of blasted rock soaring hundreds of feet up, painted with the minerals of a millennium of water and wear, like giants carving graffiti in black on red stone. It is a landscape of up and down, where people feel like ants, and stones as big as houses are scattered about like dice.
I was reminded of some of the aesthetics in my mind, that I have come to assume and had really forgotten their source. A friend commented on a very water sculpted piece of sandstone, that it looked like wood. He also said it looked like my work! I was stunned for a moment, and then delighted to realize that a huge piece of my artistic judgment was based on my years of hiking the Arizona, and Utah deserts looking for subject matter to paint. In particular, I have made many tables with soaring leg tops coming through the table plane, and while it felt correct, I could not put my finger on the source of the desire to do so. I had thought it had to do with trees and how they reach up to get light, but after seeing monoliths of rock standing alone in pillars hundreds of feet high and refusing to fall even though gravity looked sure to win, it is clear that the stone is my mentor for these images.
We all have pictures in our heads, that may be acknowledged or subliminal, of the nature that we have seen and the places we have experianced. They are the cornerstone of our connection to the natural world. Without them we would be more removed from life and the power we get feeling that we belong in the wild, smelling the pine, looking at flowers, watching a hawk circle in the cloudless blue, and seeing the stars in an enormous dark sky.
I reconnected with the immense rock and the amazing formations of the high desert as if they were old friends. My intention is to purposefully use the rock and its sculptural beauty more now that we have become reacquainted. Go out and visit the earth.You may not always be comfortable, but the payback is worth the effort. Its a small price to pay to experience the magic of our world