Cinahilger's Blog



Landscape

For once I’m not sitting down to eat as I write an entry. I don’t know what it is about writing and eating that I always seem to do them consecutively, but I want to try writing an entry without stuffing my face with Sbarros at the same time.

Right now I’m sitting in my Art History class, and my professor is lecturing about my favorite type of American art: the landscape.

This last spring I decided to go on a train trip, alone. This train trip took me from my little midwestern home to L.A. to see my best friend. I don’t really branch out much, so this trip was both my first time seeing mountains up close (two mountain ranges, in fact: the Rockies as well as the Sierras) and my first time seeing the ocean. I took hundreds of pictures on this trip, and was in awe of my surroundings for most of the trip. My best friend laughed at my glee upon reaching Huntington Beach and describing the cliffs I saw on my trip.

 Beyond showing those pictures I took to my family and friends, though, I don’t really look at them. They’re lovely pictures to be sure. But when I remember the way these natural wonders looked when I glimpsed them, the photographs just seem inadequate representations.

When I look at landscape paintings, though; particularly landscapes by painters such as Frederic Church, I find that they somehow capture that majesty, that thrill of discovery. Even the sharpest, most expertly composed landscape photography can’t convey the sense of wonder that I associate with truly experiencing nature. Somehow, it seems, when an expert painter such as Church paints a scene of wild nature, he captures more than just a glimpse of how the world looks, he captures how it feels.

When I walk to work every morning, I pass a couple of the gardens that are everywhere on my college campus. They don’t draw anything out of me, however. They don’t reach out and snag my soul. I merely glance at them. When I saw the ocean for the first time I couldn’t take my eyes off of it.

Photographs of landscapes feel like glances to me, while landscape painting reaches out with invisible hooks to latch onto my soul.

I should say, by the way, that I’m not at all averse to photography and I don’t think it a lesser art than painting at all. There are many ways in which photography conveys our world in ways that more traditional art forms can’t, and I’m sure there are thousands out there whose very hearts are pulled into a brilliant photograph. And in some cases, I’m right there with them. But when it comes to landscapes, and the natural world, I will never be more swayed than by the work of a paintbrush.

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