I am interested in the ways that the experience of looking at a place through the lens of a camera differs substantially from the experience of looking at a place optically. It has been my experience that paintings and drawings from life of panoramic vistas are surprisingly unrelated to photographic images. In the Summer of 2011, I was the artist-in-residence for the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. While I was there, I took many photographs, sketched, and made several sustained drawings, the most significant of which is Powell Point (Drawing).
My original purpose was to comment on tourism, and how the advent of inexpensive, point-and-shoot digital cameras results both in pleasurable images, and (avoidable) visual overload. In virtually all tourist locations, most people replace the pleasurable and time-consuming activity of looking, with the instantaneous and usually thoughtless experience of rapidly snapping photographs. I’ve noticed many people click their cameras without even consulting the camera’s viewfinder. I wanted to slow down the pace of seeing, and encourage people to re-experience the pleasures of sustained looking.
I picked a well-trafficked spot, so that I could ensure contact with visitors. I had many great conversations with visitors, who, more often than not, would exclaim “Gee, I never would have noticed that unless you were drawing it and told me about it.” What I discovered during that residency was that it’s not just the performance of photography at a tourist location that is problematic – rather the greater problem for the careful observer is the unexpected inability of photography to really convey a panoramic experience. These oil paintings of the canyon are based on my sketches, drawings, and photographs. I would not have been able to create them from my photographs alone: I needed to be in the place physically observing and drawing in order to create these paintings. I intend these paintings to convey a sense of place and space that photography can not.
The following three residencies provided me with the time and space to complete these works: the Grand Canyon Artist in Residence Program, Ucross (in Ucross, Wyoming) and Playa (in Summer Lake, Oregon). These places made it possible for me to create these paintings.
Home| Grand Canyon | Exhibits| Contact