Sunday, November 28, 2010

Our Changing Geography

The colors, scents and shapes of our local geography, most especially that of our youth, leave their lasting impression on our souls. For some it’s the tall buildings of the city or high peaks of New Hampshire that bring comfort and a feeling of home. For others it’s the wide open expanse of a loam rich river valley or the rolling surf of the ocean. And yes, our personal geography changes as we move and travel across this small planet but the geography of our youth is always there.
For me it was the fields of corn and rolling rural farms of upstate New York. The numerous shades of ochres and deep greens of corn tipping in the summer breeze; indian yellows, deep reds and violets swirling in the gusts of fall; all levels of deep earthy browns and greys in the dead of winter; and the bright greens, yellows and pinks pushing out of the ground and emerging from tree limbs in spring. These images plus the unique scents like that of low tide on Cape Cod during those short vacation weeks each summer when we were out in the world pulling clams from the shores of the salt water Mill Pond in East Orleans. 
So now that I’m painting I often get asked the question - why landscapes? And most recently - why all those “windmills?!” Well the why landscape is easy. As a kid I was “kept” outside as many good parents would do and later in college I was a geography major (with a minor in art, I flip flopped between the two and almost had a double major) and immediately identified with the definition of geography, “the relationship between man and the land.” So it has always been at the top of my list of passions. Maps. Hiking. Rock collecting as well as climbing. The ocean life. The skiing life. And always, always looking up at the clouds. It’s within the very beat of my heart when I pick up a brush and I’m challenged to learn how to communicate these feelings and memories that churn within into beautiful and passionate images. A tall order and I’ve just begun to scratch out her surface.                                

As to those funny looking windmills. Well, this is the new image shaping my local geography. At least where I now spend my summers. You see them now while driving through northern Pennsylvania, across upstate New York and in and around various spots in New England. Sometimes you are just numbingly driving on the Mass Pike back towards Albany when you come around a bend and there on top of a hill above you is this REALLY TALL wind turbine just slowly turning in the wind. Same is true on our many drives between Elmira and Rochester and on the east side of Syracuse in Cazenovia. They are like tall totems living on old dairy farms and they make me feel the exact same way I felt when I first visited the big city of Boston - I couldn’t stop looking up with amazement and joy! 

c.sullivan - 48 x 48" work in progress

Yes it’s a  controversial topic. Some think they are ugly, an energy band aide and don't want them "in their backyard." Yet many of these wind farms are now on the local chamber of commerce websites as one of their “featured tourist attractions” because of their beauty and many flock there to take pictures and visit them as if they are giant garden sculptures. At least that's how they make me feel. I want to sit and stare at them as if at a museum.  Financially it’s a win-win for the farmers and local governments. Just like cell towers and the tall power lines before them. But regardless of your opinions on wind turbine farms they are now a part of our new geography and I am attempting to capture this sea-change (or better yet geographically hill-change). Just give me about four more months and see where it leads...