My American Dream: Mystery Train
Yosemite Sunset, 2017 oil on linen 40 × 60 in. | 101.6 × 152.4 cm
Yosemite Sunset, 2017
oil on linen 40 × 60 in. | 101.6 × 152.4 cm

Yosemite Sunset is part of the Yosemite in Winter suite I painted in the beginning of the year, just after my families’ trip to Yosemite for Christmas with my husband. We went there for vacation, but also as a photographic odyssey, loving the National Parks, and thinking about the threat of our current administration’s antagonism towards the EPA, the Parks, and our environment in general. I took this image with my wide angle camera, just at sunset on Christmas Eve, and it really looked this sublime–strange, and beautiful but also a little scary. I hope we aren’t in apocalyptic times, but I worry with all the recent fires in Northern California, and the current threats against the environment seem the worst since the days of John Muir convincing Roosevelt that Yosemite and other natural American Eden’s should be protected as National Parks. I love Ansel Adams and the tradition, going back to the Hudson River School time, of creating romantic images of our great nation–to lovingly (and politically) convincing folks of the wonder and importance of the natural beauty of our world. I also love the works of early American modernists, such as Charles Burchfield, Georgia O’Keefe, and Marsden Hartley and more, who depicted the landscape from their own inner eye in addition to what they perceived from the natural environment. Perhaps influenced by the Emersonian Transcendentalist movement, in their images, nature truly becomes alive and animated as their vision becomes visionary–as their conscious mind becomes influenced by nature influencing their unconscious mind. In the days post Richter, I believe the painters job is to penetrate the image of the photo, and I like to paint the technological enhancement from the camera lenses (such as pixels in this case made large in the close up and printing process) as if the distortions are “real”, picking up visual threads that also couldn’t be perceived from the natural eye, as in plein air paintings of the impressionists and Cézanne. What I do get from Cézanne, in particular, is how he was able to graft onto reality the surreality of his unconscious mind—I feel as if he used the landscape as talismans for memory, and as he was painting what he saw, his unconscious was also spilling through the paint, creating abstract subliminal memories impacted into the picture plane, with the colors, shapes, and forms of his perception guiding his unconscious brush to bring these aspects into a plastic reality. I hope with this image, my fears and nightmares of an apocalyptic world come through as much as the representational reality of Yosemite Falls at Sunset. I’m inspired by Japanese screens that sometimes depict the seasons as different points of life, with Sunset being the end, but also hope that art can serve as an edifying warning–in addition to a transcendent scene to contemplate.