arias, overtures and recitatives… and an experience of the land

Ignacio de Lucca

Landscape has played throughout my art-making– past present and future– in a way that, I am realizing, few other subjects do. It’s such a bear of a historical precedent to follow, and in some ways, I wish I could avoid it. Yet, there it is. It’s one of my most honest sources of inspiration– both its actuality (the land) and its depiction (the landscape). The word itself– landscape– is kind of a bore to me. It implies a tidy, well-framed ideal of natural balance… a very human ideal of beauty. [I’m also putting my finger on the fact that romantic ideals tend to freak me out as much as they attract me– whether it’s a fashion model or a modern home, a landscape or a lifestyle mag…]

With some old friends, I was recently listening to Joanna Newsom’s album, Have One on Me, and I tried to say that it felt like that “other part of the opera– you know– not the arias, but the wandering-in-between parts.” Clearly I’m not an opera buff, but have since done mini-research to find out that what I was referring to is called recitative (or recitativo). It seems like it takes up the majority of most operas– words sung without the hook or repetition that would allow you to easily memorize it, sung with a more conversational, less rhythmic cadence, but sung nonetheless. By their musicality, they have the abstraction of art (the artifice?), but it’s a less… well… tidy approach. The act of drawing is as abstract as singing a line of wandering text. It is a highly stylized and individualized response to the world and its overlapping cultures.

In thinking about the land, and my own experience of it, I find the desire to draw in a more recitative way. I’m interested in the less picturesque portions of a hike, say, the parts where no one is whipping out a camera. It seems more accurate to what it really is like to attempt to ascertain the environment where we find ourselves. There might be some trash caught in the underbrush. The foliage might not orchestrate itself into a rhythmic decorative song. It’s not an aria very often, or an overture. Edges are ragged, information is partial, patterns come and go…

Lee Friedlander, 1994 (from "Apples and Olives" series)