Saturday, October 13, 2007


At times focusing on Deer Isle landscape as a subject for my paintings seems limiting. When I'm up there it makes perfect sense, because it's a wonderful lifestyle, everything is so beautiful, and I feel lucky to be in the midsts of it all. When I am away it is comforting to make these paintings, and it reminds me of how fortunate I am, but it's not really the same thing. Sticking with Deer Isle subjects has the benefit of giving me quick focus when I settle down to work and provides consistency to the pieces, but I can't help feeling I ought to be working with something more immediate.

The landscape around Washington, DC is often lovely but isn't terribly dramatic or singular-- lotta rolling hills, lotta green. We have the monuments, which are too loaded with patriotic zeal as subject matter. We have the Chesapeake Bay nearby, which is pretty but fairly marshy and horizontal. I like scenes that take my breath away with precipitous dropoffs, or massive brooding rock formations. I used to love the quarries around Bloomington, Indiana in grad school.

When I think about nearby subjects that really strike a chord in me, I have always had an attraction to the bridges, particularly those spanning Rock Creek Park. One rides atop them on a constant basis without giving it a thought, but when you peer off the side or stand underneath these monsters they evoke the grandeur of Roman acqueducts and Piranesi prints (I was a printmaker in school, so Piranesi's prisons were a staple). They are our stealth monuments.

And what kind of effort went into building these bridges? I remember looking at a plaque on one of the bridges, maybe the P Street Bridge, mentioning that it was rebuilt by the WPA. The Roosevelt era recovery efforts are so romantic. Though the reality of those times was certainly not so simple, it's hard not to bask in the rosy glow of the benevolent ideals I was taught about in elementary school. I need to scout a few bridges. Just so long as no one ever accuses me of painting them as an allegory for my transition from something to something else. Eek.