VISAGE AND VISTA, FALL 2009Teaching this class has been a completely new experience but it has reinforced an earlier conviction that as students draw and paint the verities within observed form they also inevitably paint from their own sensibilities, from some place inside. Each student painting reproduced here is a response to the landscape, direct or indirect; some are more descriptive, others more expressive or abstract. The experience of painting “en plein air” has added depth and breadth to the oeuvre of most. In any case, there is no debate over the richness offered by the landscape as a source for visual form and play of space. If you see a car weaving down a Kansas road, watch out; it might be one of these painters looking around for a new spot.
The idea to offer this course stemmed from both personal and professional interests. As a teacher, I noticed that painting students sometimes relied heavily on photographs as a single source for their work while lacking any real familiarity with the subject. Visage and Vista gave students the opportunity to develop skills from a subject so vast that the primary challenge at first was to frame and edit. As a kid, I learned to love the Kansas landscape from horseback. Later, extensive travel to the Venezuelan jungle inspired paintings connected to the destruction of a gorgeous but vulnerable environment. The beauty of this geographical area played an important role. I documented my farm for one year and that series of paintings prompted the actual planning and request to schedule this course.
Immediately after I discovered, From the Ground Up, I contacted the originators, Garth Myers from Cultural Geography and Paul Hotvedt. The students and I are grateful for their generosity and effort to include paintings from the 2009 landscape class on the website. Three artists in Lawrence have been inspirational as visiting artists and very helpful along the way: Robert Sudlow, the West-coast trained painter and preeminent landscape artist who taught landscape painting at KU for many years; Paul Hotvedt, a highly regarded painter, community activist, and forceful thinker who is devoted to the landscape source and the philosophical stance embedded in that experience; and Dawn Guernsey, another highly regarded painter and the current art department chair who has provided enthusiastic personal and departmental support and whose own work integrates landscape patterning and personal symbolism.
The class has benefited from the current intellectual interest in the relationship between culture and place. Art historian, Dr. Charles Eldredge, Distinguished Professor of American Art, has helped establish regionalism as a dynamic fact and regularly teaches a class on the history of Kansas’ art and culture. Relatively new disciplines such as Environmental History and Cultural Geography attest to the importance of connecting ideas. The Hall Center for the Humanities features a Nature and Culture lecture series. Denise Low, faculty member at Haskell Indian Nations University and a Poet Laureate of Kansas, has researched poems by Kansas’ authors that will be published as a history of accounts and metaphors belonging to the prairie.
The Center for Teaching Excellence has been particularly supportive of our goal to learn more about the profound relationship between culture and place through connections to art history, environmental history, and cultural geography. Even Mother Nature cooperated and the class enjoyed mild weather well into November. Finally, I want to congratulate my wonderful students on their perseverance, accomplishments, and enthusiastic participation!
Judith Burns McCrea
Professor of Drawing and Painting
View VISAGE AND VISTA points on the map or in the image gallery.