The Art of Landscaping

An essay by Carl Benton Straub
Professor of Religion and Clark A. Griffith Professor of Environmental Studies

Landscapes are the forms of history meeting the earth. They are expressions of the human imagination working within the bounds – the inscrutable bounds – of finitude. The very word Landschaft means “land worked,” “land shaped.” Landscapes are outward manifestations of an enduring [human] resistance to being homeless and hence bewildered by the expansiveness and terror of nature. Landscapes are confirmations that the earth is fit for diversity of life and for the disparate yearnings of all creatures to be enfolded in its unfolding.

So the ants build their hills, the raven weave the twigs, the deer stomp out their yards. And we human folk lace the meadows with stone fences, plant in near-perfect rows the corn, muster vision to design the glass house on the knoll…pollute the rivers, tear the taiga, smear the deserts and deep waters with the oil of greed. Landscapes are the signatures of those passing through and, in the human regard, of those drawn by a distant goal or by a felt sense of destiny. Yes, landscapes are the forms of history meeting the earth.

The works in this exhibition are in continuity with these larger, all-pervasive renditions of life on earth. Using pen and brush rather than claw and spade, the artists shape and fashion the elemental forces of nature to serve the dictates of their imagination and to satiate the hunger of their aesthetic needs. Their translations of light and shadow, color and form, texture and movement into patterns of meaning focus the human eyes and hence engage the human mind. Through their constructions, informed by the history of visual arts and by their own journeys, they capture moments and condense places so that we, their companions, can see more clearly.

Here, before us in this little gallery, are moments for pause, perhaps compelling us to remember the primordial yet delicate structure of grace which is life on earth.

Traditional MaineContemporary Artists Beyond HomerThe Art of Landscaping