Editor’s Letter | Meditations on Nature

Landscape paintings connect us to the natural world

By Kristin Hoerth

Mike Bucher, Hot Springs Canyon #2, Big Bend, oil, 54 x 48.

Mike Bucher, Hot Springs Canyon #2, Big Bend, oil, 54 x 48.

This story was featured in the June 2018 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Get the Southwest Art June 2018 print issue or digital download now–then subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss another story.

As I write this, it’s the height of spring along Colorado’s Front Range. The grass has turned a brilliant shade of green, the pear and redbud trees are bursting with white and pink blossoms, and tulips are everywhere. But my favorite sign of spring is unfolding high up in a cottonwood tree behind my house. Over the past few weeks, I’ve watched as a pair of Cooper’s hawks has built a large nest. For hours at a time, the male glided in and out of the tree repeatedly, returning each time with more material. Now it appears that the nest is ready, and the female is incubating the eggs.

Over the weeks that this process has been taking place, I’ve learned that if I really want to understand and appreciate it, I need to take some time to watch. Pointing the binoculars at the tree once in a while through the kitchen window doesn’t yield nearly the same results as sitting on the deck for an hour or so to observe. Once I did that, I noticed a lot more, like which nearby tree the male was using to stand guard, close enough to bring food yet well hidden. And I got to watch the female when she stood up, moved around a bit, and preened for quite some time, showing off her plumage. Doing this made me feel infinitely more attuned to the world around me—the natural world, that is, which is often too easy to forget about as we go about our daily lives of projects and deadlines and the tasks of living.

The artists featured this month in The Nature Issue are all aiming for some version of that same goal, even if they take a variety of creative approaches to get there. For Texas painter David Caton (page 44), it’s about moving beyond the literal scene in front of him to perceive the landscape’s transcendent power, taking some liberties with details to communicate a sense of quiet awe. For Eric Merrell (page 50), it’s about seeking new places and finding a sense of wonder or mystery that he can explore in his work. For Sarah Bienvenu (page 58), it’s about distilling the landscape into a series of interwoven shapes that express the beauty of New Mexico.

Whichever landscape styles you’re most drawn to, I hope that looking at them—and living with them—brings you a few moments of that quiet awe that comes from connecting to nature.

This story was featured in the June 2018 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Get the Southwest Art June 2018 print issue or digital download now–then subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss another story.

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