Howard House is proud to announce a group exhibition that surveys current approaches and attitudes about the landscape in painting.
The American landscape is no longer the pregnant garden replete with promise that lured the gaze of 19th century painters such as Asher B. Durand or Alfred Bierstadt. The wilderness has been paved over to make way for suburban dwellings. Encounters with displaced wildlife--cougars, black bears--are a jarring result of suburban expansion. City parks, topiary gardens, and nature reserves are simulations for what is lost and gained in progress.
Terra Non Firma features the work of 14 American artists whose work confronts the shifting role of the landscape in the 21st century. All the familiar tropes are present; majestic mountains, dark forests, agricultural settlement, blasted trees, and cowboys. The twists, however, are revealing.
New York city artist Cameron Martin's painting of Mt. St. Helens has more to do with the flatness of tourist brochures than with a direct, lived encounter with the mammoth volcano. Los Angeles artist Tom LaDuke's delicate renderings of withered trees are named after naturally produced poisons. Arizona artist Carrie Marill's charismatic gouache paintings feature houseplants in electrically heated pots and Nature t-shirts of the type found in rural
novelty shops or zoos.
Mark Danielson, who lives and works in Seattle, delineates suburban lawn shrubs with the uncompromising hand of a master draftsman. San Francisco artist Stella Lai's checkered landscapes draw from video game and commercial imagery: the "Four Seasons Vacation" series puns with the seasonal cycles portrayed in Japanese shoji screen paintings and the popular hotel chain. Seattle artist Victoria Haven's mountain ranges are fractured and intricate line drawings. Seattle artist Robert Yoder's large work on paper builds upon previous compositions that evoke aerial views of the landscape.
New York artist Juliana Ellman's miniature gouache painting shows the hazards of outdoorsmanship. "Untitled (Rescue Basket)" shows a rescue basket precariously lowered to the water, but neither the helicopter nor the rescued are visible. Berlin-based artist Melissa Gordon's "Water House" is full of projected anxiety for the home isolated by wilderness. It appears ready to explode and teeters on narrow stilts above dark waters.
Jay Davis, Alexander Kantarovsky, Dan Kopp and Maria Park use paint ecstatically. Kansas City artist Maria Park's thick paint drips reveal the contrivance both of the painted image and of the Western mythos. New York City artist Kantarovsky paints a myth of runaway lovers and salvation in the wilderness built upon a vocabulary of abstract mark-making. Kopp and Davis, both in New York City, offer hallucinatory visions of landscapes unlike anything encountered in the natural world. One cannot help but be invigorated by their vision, though hope is another matter entirely.
Keith Jacobshagen, who lives and works in Lincoln, paints the sweeping plains of Nebraska from a magisterial view, observing the minutia of camp life in a cowboy vernacular: captions painted at the bottom of his canvasses speak of "cut brush fires" and a "hot coffee warm-up."