The Meaningful Landscape

Painting is the language of feeling. A painting to me is meaningless unless it expresses emotion. I paint a northeastern, rural landscape where I grew up and still live. This landscape is so familiar to me that I use its features as elements in my visual vocabulary. My grandparents owned land, a 60-acre farm where my brother and I often stayed while my parents traveled. Since I’ve grown up, the farm has been divided, but parts of it are still owned by members of my family. I live in a small town just a few miles away in New York state, and I visit the old farm often.

Scythes and Whispers (egg tempera, 34 x 28)

The family farm has become a symbol, because the small farm that was an American institution is vanishing. Real estate developers are tearing down old buildings and parceling the land into lots. The remaining old mills and deserted barns speak to what has been abandoned and to a time that is lost. Much of the imagery has a personal meaning to me. The images are symbols: They’re my way of working through issues. I never ask myself “What does this painting need?” I ask “What is it I’m trying to say?” Then I work to clarify that. In my paintins I want more than merely to represent a place. Meaning is what I hide in my paintings, and I find that meaning in emotion as I paint the landscape I love.

The landscape of the northeast tells of generations who have farmed there. That way of life is disappearing and the mood of such paintings can be melancholy, but I like to think of my work as being contemplative rather than gloomy. Solitude is a theme in my work. My bleak vistas and bare rooms invite the viewer to fill in the emptiness.

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