Acknowledging the history of fiction in landscape painting, my paintings announce their own fiction, a system of shifting perspective, flat skewed planes of color, and illogical moments. I translate my position of not knowing but feeling my way through these problems, their histories, and contradictions with sensitivity and nuance.
Reckoning with this tradition began after studying painting at Tyler School of Art, when I hiked the entirety of the Appalachian Trail, a 2,100-mile footpath from Georgia to Maine, in 2011. I saw a preoccupation with viewing the landscape preserved in a language of rustic frontier aesthetics. This five-month experience laid the foundation for analyzing landscape mythologies and my participation in them as the crux of my artistic practice.
The myth of white men discovering themselves through nature is one I intimately know from my youth camping and backpacking. The power of the white imperialist gaze and its obsession with conquering, summiting, and wilderness are fundamental frontier myths. My paintings undermine the power of that gaze to find a form more capable of knowing and living with the land.
The focus of my practice is large paintings ranging from five to ten feet wide. This scale responds to the monumental landscape tradition in the United States established by artists like Albert Bierstadt and Frederic Church. Their paintings omitted Indigenous Peoples and the systematic violence perpetrated on them. Landscape painting contributed to the wilderness myth by denying Indigenous peoples' existence in order to justify expansion and resource extraction.
My process of making paintings involves travel and research. It begins with fieldwork in national parks and recreation areas, where I collect memories, photographs and drawings. In the studio, I then contextualize these references with primary and secondary sources, including archival documents, imagery and literature that allow me to investigate the construction of a specific place-myth.
What is at stake in my work, then, is no less than deconstructing the ideology of power, place, masculinity, and whiteness within the history of the United States. Landscape has been too often overlooked as an agent which naturalizes mythologies of power and ecological destruction. My paintings trouble these historical frameworks so we can begin to develop a deeper and darker ecological perspective of our world. My work is one part of this greater struggle, searching for and developing new forms to undermine the language of landscape representation as an innocuous pictorial strategy and to find newer and healthier ways of looking at the world.