My American Dream: City of Angels
Rocky Mountain National Park, 2024 Oil on linen 60 × 90 in. (152.4 × 228.6 cm)
Rocky Mountain National Park, 2024
Oil on linen 60 × 90 in. (152.4 × 228.6 cm)

Rocky Mountain National Park is located a little over an hour Northwest of downtown Denver, where my parents live (and the suburbs of which I grew up in as a child).  When I was little, we used to go on summer vacation to the YMCA camp at Estes Park, just ten minutes away from the park, and my parents and I went back there to visit a few years ago to reminisce, have a day trip in the mountains and to see its growth.  On the way back, we couldn’t help but stop by this one scenic outlook at the park, and taking my camera, I took this picture, as my father and I walked to the edge of this overlook. 

We used to go up to the mountains to ski my whole childhood—my family had a condo at Copper Mountain, in Summit County, where I spent some of the fondest times with them and my friends, skiing in the winter, hiking in the summer, and spending the weekends in the sublime wilderness that I was too young to consciously appreciate the depths of, but this landscape is a part of my core being and I now embrace it wholeheartedly. 

In this part of the City of Angels exhibition, I’m thinking of the National Parks meets UFO panorama of paintings to be allegorical—if we don’t take care of our Earth, perhaps the UFO’s will for us—something we probably don’t want to happen!  My camera is a mirrorless Sony A7 camera, that my childhood best friend Dan Knapp recognized my wide angle lens wasn’t set to take full advantage of—he retrofitted the lens—which wasn’t made to accommodate the full frame of the camera, to have this iris-like affect, which I love as it both reminds me of him (he passed away tragically from a car accident a few years ago), and it reminds me of the “iris shot” that in silent movies to emphasize a detail of a scene, but also more commonly to open or end a sequence in a movie.  I like this affect for this painting—I’m hoping that we aren’t at the close of a chapter of the beauty of nature and our planet with global warming and more—but it so feels like this as our planet is warming and people become more war mongering—I hope this is just a scene that will be transitioning into a better future.  But also, my parents aren’t getting younger, and as I age, I feel for their—and my own—mortality.

I love the American Transcendentalist spirit, along with the Western Art of the Denver Art Museum I grew up visiting, and the Hudson River School and painters such as Thomas Moran and Bierstadt, who are represented well in the museum, part of the core of my aesthetic being, as being part of this region and nature. People like John Muir felt as everything was alive in nature, even in the rocks beyond the plants, and being in the wealth of richness of the natural world, it sometimes feels like this.  Painters in this time didn’t have the advantage of high-resolution digital color photography obviously, but if they did, I think they would also use photos to capture all the detail with as much exactitude as possible.  I also love Cézanne, and in his landscapes, especially his Mont Sainte Victoire paintings, would allow his subconscious to spill out onto the map of what he was consciously observing, something I am trying to do, ruminating about my youth and using the image as a talisman, as he might think of himself and his childhood friend Zola hiking through the mountains he painted.  Our inner mind has an ability to see “faces in clouds” as they cognize the information we see, especially in complicated details in nature, and I’m doing this here, allowing for those forms to come out, but not to illustrate them.  I thought there was a figure, much like an old “father time” like man hiking through the clouds (thinking about my father), but in the negative space of the clouds just to our left of this figure is a skier, like a slalom racer almost perfectly depicted, that I had no idea I was painting until after it was finished, that also must have been my inner mind thinking of my youth. 

I like to paint the pixels and lens flares as if they are “real”, and loving the sublime suns of Turner, enjoyed trying to bring out the spirit of the work with the intensity of the rays of the sun as they appeared in the picture, but also the inner worlds of the lens flare circles of light, almost like Wizard of Oz good witch bubbles (or given the sci-fi like allegory of the context of this painting—like UFO’s!) emanating into the atmosphere. 

The paths and roads seem to go into the distance and jump off into eternity—thinking about the mortality of life and our journeys, but also thinking about the sublimity of nature’s existence and how we are all part of a much larger world and cosmology, hope this painting recognizes where we are in our global warming planet earth, but also the wealth of our lives still able to hopefully build a planet with a better future for those who will enjoy, into eternity.