Click on photos to enlarge.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Grand Canyon Art

Grand Canyon River, 2013, T. Douglas, painted digitally.
The world is full of natural wonders. From the delicate beauty of the tiniest butterfly, to God's exquisite geological masterpieces of literally mountainous proportions. America has its share of these awe-inspiring features: "From the Mountains, to the prairies, to the oceans bright with foam." Around the world such natural features are often preserved from the equally natural greed of an uncaring mankind in National Parks. Besides inspiring awe, these parks and the wonders they preserve also inspire art. And no park, no natural wonder in any such park, has inspired so many artists as the Colorado River and its massive Grand Canyon. Artists have been painting it now for well over a hundred years. As painters go, it would, I think, not be out of line to say the Thomas Moran "owns" the Grand Canyon.

Grand Canyon, 1904, Thomas Moran
Showery Day, Grand Canyon,
Thomas Moran
Thomas Moran first visited the Grand Canyon in the early 1870s, then returned often over then next three or four decades as his paintings made the great chasm dug by the Colorado River popular with the general public. His paintings of Yellowstone Park and the Grand Canyon (above )likely had more to do with causing both places to become parks, and then major tourist attractions, than any other factor. Showery Day, Grand Canyon, (left) is one of Moran's best, unusual for its relatively rare vertical format. In more recent years, Michigan artist, Robert Perrish, along with many others, have begun painting the geological landmark from the bottom, down by the river. Perrish's Grand Morning (below), depicts one of the stream's broad, placid areas. Digital painter, T. Douglas, with his 2013 Grand Canyon River (top) gives us a stunningly enhanced peek at the astounding colors of the canyon, and the light streaming into it, often create.

Grand Morning, Robert Perrish
Grand Canyon, 1902, Maxfield Parrish
Any artist who has ever taken on the Grand Canyon will tell you that light, time of day, weather, and location, location, location, have a tremendous impact on any attempt to capture some or all of the above on canvas. Another Parrish, the more famous, Maxfield Parrish, descended upon the Grand Canyon about the same time as Moran's late work, around 1901-02. His distinctly colored version, featuring his trademark vivid cool blues and hot orange-reds, can be seen at right. Together, they render a kind of surreal ambience to the gorge. As for the other factors, the modern-day painter, Puci, illustrates the impact of lighting on a given canyon feature, which, of course, has to do with the time of day. When my wife and I visited the canyon last year, I made a special effort to be there, with my camera read, at sunset. Alas, I got lots of good pictures of the sun and sky but virtually nothing of value involving the rugged canyon itself. I was on the East side viewing the west side, which, naturally, was all in shadow. My wife, however, was at a slightly different location and was able to capture images on her cell phone camera that put mine to shame. Thus, the old real estate mantra applies--location, location, location--it's a BIG canyon.

Grand Canyon Tonal Variation 2 (left) and Grand Canyon Tonal Variation 3 (right), by Puci, illustrates the importance for the artist to be in the right place at the right time.
Although most tourists visit during the warm, comfortable months of summer (sometimes uncomfortably warm, in fact), never is the site more dramatically awe inspiring than in winter with the right light and the right covering of snow, as seen below in Clyde Aspevig's The Grand Canyon from Mather Point (below). The unpredictable spring weather did, in fact, provide snow a few days before we visited the canyon in mid-May of last year; however it all completely melted in but a few hours.

The Grand Canyon From Mather Point, Clyde Aspevig
Every year the Grand Canyon Association hosts, the Grand Canyon Celebration of Art, featuring six days of art related events followed by a three-month exhibit at the Kolb Studio on the South Rim of Park. The celebration features artists from around the country who engage in a plein air competition and exhibition. Park visitors and residents have the opportunity to watch the artists paint as they seek to represent the shifting light and shadow, amazing land forms, and vibrant colors of this vast landscape. Visitors also have the opportunity to bid on the artists' work, allowing them to take home a bit of the canyon through the art it inspires. The event takes place in mid-September each year.

Grand Canyon Celebration of Art (2013), with artists James McGrew, and M. L. Coleman.
Given the fact that the Grand Canyon's Native-American population justifiably maintains both a literal and symbolic ownership of the land, its perhaps most appropriate that their painted images of the canyon bear the greatest claim to authenticity, as seen in the work of famed Navajo artist R.C. Gorman's canyon depiction (below), which eschews objective imaging in favor of a more spiritual approach. Now, having shown you the work of many of the best Grand Canyon artists to ever wield a brush, let me now reluctantly display my own Postmodern version painted shortly after we returned from vacation. Titled A Visit to the Grand Canyon (bottom), the painting calls to mind the canyon's climactic moment near the end of the movie, Thelma and Louise, when the leading ladies, Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis, pursued by local law enforcement, opt to take a dive in their 1967 Thunderbird...over the edge.

Grand Canyon, Navajo artist, R.C. Gorman
Copyright, Jim Lane
A Visit to the Grand Canyon, 2014, Jim Lane.


No comments:

Post a Comment