I depict landforms in a way that an amalgam of a cartographer, architect and camouflage designer might. My process is to take apart the landscape and re-assemble it, creating objects and images that tell a story. Sometimes the story is personal, for instance, an experience that I had at a particular place. Sometimes it’s about light and the passage of time. The story can also be about the depiction of a place, by legend or account.
In the late 70’s I spent several seasons working as a firefighter for the BLM in Northeastern Utah. Often, I would be transported to fire sites via helicopter and I was able to view the landscape from the air. This experience transformed my way of seeing. From the air the land revealed its larger form; contours unseen from the ground emerged, and trees and rock became patterns of color and shadow.
I became acquainted with topographic maps when I was working in the architectural field and analogous to that, making architectural contour models. I enjoy the way cartographers use color and line to convey specific information. More recently, GPS, geosynchronous satellite mapping and Google Earth have got me interested in new ways to view the world. These images inform us, even as they are sometimes altered or obscured to conceal.
In my work, I combine concepts of information and disinformation, form and the abstract quality of maps and aerial photography to describe places I know, or that I want to know more about. To wit, three places in New Mexico (my home for 30 years) have lately occupied my imagination, they are: Archuleta Mesa, Mt. Taylor and the Valles Caldera.
Archuleta Mesa (near Dulce, NM) is purported by some to be a joint human/ET base of operations. Mt. Taylor (near Grants, NM) is an extinct volcano with a distinctive radial pattern as viewed from the air. The Valles Caldera (near Los Alamos, NM) is one of only a handful of super volcanoes located in North America.
Five elements are common in all my work:
- The background hue combines the colors of the New Mexico soil and its scrub plants, bleached light by a relentless sun.
- Paint drips provide a north/south axis.
- Grids provide scale and proximity for objects and patterns and tie the composition together.
- My palette is loosely derived from a map of the Himalaya. In topographic maps, color differentiates areas of elevation, often in several thousand foot increments. To achieve an eight color palette with options for choice, I found the Himalaya to be the best option.
- I use contour lines to delineate changes in elevation and to define areas in the overall image. Inside these defined areas I let the lines go their own way. As a result, portions of the images become quite fanciful…doodles from a daydream.