In concluding his seminal essay, Truth in Landscape”, Robert Adams suggests that the main business of landscape art is the “rediscovery and revaluation of where we find ourselves”. While I feel this is true of any subject, I am often asked how can one project ones self into the subject that is landscape. The argument goes that the landscape is a given and we cannot influence how we render it in our images. I disagree.
To me, the landscape is simply a stage and, like any stage we can act out any performance we want. The performances can range from the “pretty” to those that are very personal to us and reflect our mood and are therefore brimming with feeling and emotion. For example, the popular subject of a lone tree can be a strong metaphor for life – the roots, trunk and branches suggesting who we are as individuals and the whole within the landscape we chose to present it representing our place in the world. Similarly, dark, storm clouds and the use of a narrow tonal range suggest the depth of our mood at the time we create the image. Since our moods change, I frequently challenge myself to go back to an image of a landscape subject taken several months or even years ago and create a new image. I am often surprised at how different they are. We can almost track the brighter and darker times in our lives by going through images we have created.