Sunday, February 7, 2010

American History as Told through Paint

Dr. Reeve presented many paintings. Most of them were pretty astounding. One of the first few, by Albert Bierstadt, inspired some thought. His paintings were shown in a kind of "angelic" light, to borrow a term from another student. He painted a alot of landscapes with much attention to detail. The artist seemed to show this viewing for a purpose. It was not just for a pretty view. Most of his paintings showed a view of the land before it was changed by man's axe, log cabins, mills, and trains. Like Thoreau, the artist is trying to preserve nature. For example, in Bierstadt's "Valley of the Yosemite" painting, there is a kind of glow to it. He draws attention to the nature seemingly saying, "Forget about all the common trains, cabins, etc. and look at this." Nature is much more astounding than the mechanic works of man. The mountians and trees, untouched by human contamination, were beautiful in the paintings.
While looking at these pictures, I was entranced. Then thinking of what was was incredibly sad. Since humans have moved into the area, the lake has probably been drained. The deer have been hunted and are either completely gone from the area or hidden from site. It would no longer be a natural setting. Instead, there would be another log cabin made from the massacred trees.
Humans have changed the face of the earth so much. However, the question that is still debated is: for the better or for the worst? That painting seems to be from another world. There are recognizable characteristics from it; however, nothing like that scene could be found in today's world. Where ever one were to travel, one can't escape the touch of "civilization."
Another interesting quark about the paintings shown was that some artists captured the culture and their mixing. For example, the last painting Dr. Reeve presented depicted the Eve of St Francis at Rancho de Tao. This showed many different people of varying backgrounds (Hispanic, cowboys, Indians, etc) and their different cultures uniting at one spot for one purpose. They were united at a church. It was interesting to me to find that the church united them, when in the early days of America the settlers moved the churches aside for mills and other works of production. Yet, here, they held their candles in vigil and waited at the church. The artist also shows the different levels of devotion by manipulating the positions of the characters. While the white people were one of those appearing less devote, it was still interesting that it was through this ceremony that they were all gathered together.

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