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March 13, 2012

A bunch of new cohorts arrived here at Playa today and I have four more weeks to work, explore and ponder ideas about the space of this vast country-how it affects and overwhelms you and how man is now affecting and overwhelming it. As I write, we are in the midst of a wild wind storm which threatens to shake my cabin right off of its footings.
After the last post I became enamored of the photos I took of the playa with the clouds of white dust sweeping across the distant shore. Light radiates from these clouds at various times of the day as if they are lit from within. Because I was using my telephoto to shoot the cranes I used that lens to frame segments of the view and the result was a series of semi- abstract images. The waning light cast an alpenglow, bringing out violet hues on the hills and creating some exciting contrast with the greenish muddy water of the playa. Before then I had been using my only wide angle zoom lens to shoot the landscape because I am greedy- I wanted all of it at once. By parceling things down to just a fragment of the view, the line of the horizon is tamed. Minor land forms come in to view and details of color and texture are removed from the larger context of the scene. Furthermore, the clouds of dust obscure the horizon, which, if you have been following my thoughts, you’d know is a big pain in the visual arse. These lovely little photos have me seduced by their ability to be seen both as flat abstractions of color and as spatial representations, thus holding you at that place of visual tension that we artist are always excitedly talking about. Today I went even further and painted 5 small paintings with gouache on panel using the photos as reference. It’s my first color work in long time but I’m pleased with result- all of the color theory I taught for design class is coming back to me.

These paintings will lead me back to the other work that deals with the horizon and the difficulty of describing the infinite space out here. Using strong color is like taking a hot iron to the wrinkled space of a composition; it doesn’t really solve the problem of describing space, it merely circumvents it by turning everything into scraps of Color- Aid paper. However, the dust clouds hovering across the playa do limit the space by obscuring the horizon. That will lead me back to another big drawing I need to start: Horizon, Obscured, which depicts another kind of cloud: the acrid fumes spewing from an oil refinery in the expanse of the Wyoming landscape- more on that later.


Four of these are gouache paintings on panel- the rest are photos


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