90°South (2010-12), was a two-year project consisting of fifteen 5’ x 3.5’ acrylic paintings on canvas and paper. The work eventually resulted in a solo exhibition at the Minneapolis Institute of Art in early 2012. My interest in the explorers and Antarctic landscapes that comprised the historical period known as the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration (1897-1922) began with a simple photograph. A photograph of a snow-covered tent, standing alone in the desolate Antarctic landscape taken in 1912, launched my imagination.
The Lost Men (100 Years Ago), shows four ghost-like figures that threaten to disappear from view altogether. The 90° South paintings depict a kind of frozen landscape-as-graveyard as a way to memorialize or remember the people who have died attempting to conquer the land.
Having grown up in Canada I was influenced by the iconic paintings of the Group of Seven. My own experiences in wilderness and various writer’s descriptions of the near-spiritual qualities that accompany being in a still and formidable landscape left a lasting impact on me. My artwork has always dealt with the romantic idea of landscape as a sublime and endless open space.
I traveled to France and Belgium to research and paint at former WWI Western Front battle sites. Paintings in the series The Story were influenced by the trip and show an austere and indifferent landscape. Themes of “place” and how our psyches are informed by the spaces we inhabit continue to be crucial concepts for me. The horse in “Traveler” has wandered away from its owner and wades alone. The “Story” is told in pieces and the series provides clues as to a narrative but leaves many details to the viewer.
The awe that I have felt about nature has recently turned to fear and concern. The original idea for The Beginning (Again) series began with a quote from the book, The World Without Us, where a farmer tells the author that if one wants to tear down a barn all you have to do is cut an eighteen-inch-square hole in the roof and stand back and watch. This image of a persistent and overgrown nature became the basis for this series. Buildings will fade in relevance, importance and sophistication as new architecture replaces it; those buildings in turn will suffer the same fate. The painting “Coyote,” shows that same animal wandering onto the scene, a reference to the increasing presence of wildlife in urban areas. In “Compound,” two wolves walk across a yellow painted field investigating the remains of an abandoned concrete structure that emits a Chernobyl-like glow. Many toxic or decimated sites hold the promise of regeneration to eventually flourish in my paintings; this is a fact echoed in the real world.