In this issue of Plein Air Magazine, we celebrate the many ways artists respond to the landscape, presenting us with new ways of seeing and appreciating the world.
In the time before cell phones and social media, painters introduced broad audiences to the unique and impressive features of the American landscape, playing an integral role in fanning the flames of the early environmental movement. In the 19th century, the artists of the Hudson River School became famous for their paintings of glorious trees, tranquil lakes, and towering mountains. Albert Bierstadt and Thomas Moran painted many of the West’s scenic highlights, including the Rocky and Sierra Nevada mountains, Yellowstone, and the Grand Canyon. Around the same time, Frederick Law Olmsted, who was active in the early conservation movement, emerged as the father of landscape architecture, designing many iconic parks, including Golden Gate Park in San Francisco and Central Park in New York.
Through their work, these pioneers helped popularize a love of nature, leading people to recognize the importance of protecting beautiful spaces, even those they may never get to see in person. On April 22, 1970, 20 million Americans took part in the first Earth Day activities. Designed as a day for the nation to focus on the environment, Earth Day celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. For Richard McDaniel, who participated in the first Earth Day and is featured in the article “River Views,” the commemoration takes on added significance as he unveils a series of paintings documenting California’s Russian River, the culmination of a three-year-long project.
Of course, all plein air painters share a love of nature and have a stake in its protection. In this issue, we celebrate the many ways artists respond to the landscape, presenting us with new ways of seeing and appreciating the world. In his work, Tom Hughes invites us to take a fresh look at scenes that might otherwise have gone unnoticed. Tara Will pushes that invitation to the extreme with her colorful pastel interpretations. And the work of Thomas W. Schaller and Lyn Boyer allows us to consider the juxtaposition of the natural world and manmade structures — some grand and some past their prime, but all with stories to tell.
With Rose’s Sunflowers, this issue’s cover painting, Suzie Baker takes a different approach, shining a spotlight on nature’s bounty in a plein air still life that delights our senses. In the special feature “In the Field: A Female Perspective,” she and six other top artists tackle another of today’s hot topics. With female artists still grossly underrepresented in galleries and museums, they offer a candid look at where women stand in the world of plein air and share some of the unique challenges and rewards they face.
With preparations for the 9th Annual Plein Air Convention & Expo in Santa Fe, New Mexico, in full swing, I’m looking forward to the unique expression of camaraderie and incredible creative boost that events like this afford. I look forward, too, to exploring a new landscape, so different from the rolling hills of the Bluegrass State I call home. With artists from around the country, and increasingly from around the world, in attendance, we can count on many new interpretations of the New Mexico landscape coming soon.
PleinAir Magazine, April/May Table of Contents:
Upcoming travel and art events with Streamline Publishing: