Before the arrival of European settlers and conquerors in the 17th and 18th centuries, rumor had it that the old forests were so tall and thick that a squirrel could travel from New England to Georgia without ever touching the ground. Whatever the truth may have been, it has been lost with the old growth forests of the east.
In a somewhat ironic twist, Hawaiian painter Alison Moritsugu has taken from the classic European pastoral landscape paintings of the time and used it as inspiration. Her canvas is a large number of cut logs, potentially taken from the landscapes in question.
They are sublime and would not look out of place in a classical art museum or gallery. Although the wood canvas would certainly turn some heads. It’s a wonderful juxtaposition that, while somewhat ironic in its statement, can tell a tale that no tree rings alone could. Alison herself has a powerful statement on the subject.
“In my log paintings, I examine the contrivances found in landscape paintings of the 18th and 19th centuries. These landscapes, by artists such as Albert Bierstadt and Frederic Edwin Church, were deeply rooted in the political constructs of the time and depicted the land as a bountiful Eden, a limitless frontier ripe for conquest. I take these images out of their familiar context, the framed canvas, and paint directly on wood slices with bark intact. These landscapes appear as an homage to the idyllic art of the Hudson River School yet, by viewing the painting’s surface, the cross section of a tree, any sense of nostalgia or celebration of nature is countered by the evidence of its destruction,” she says in her artist statement.
She continues, “Painters throughout art history from the Northern Song, Baroque, Rococo and Hudson River School tailored their depictions of nature to serve an artistic narrative. Today, photoshopped images of verdant forests and unspoiled beaches invite us to vacation and sightsee, providing a false sense of assurance that the wilderness will always exist. By exploring idealized views of nature, my work acknowledges our more complex and precarious relationship with the environment.”