Finding correspondences between human ideas and natural forms heightens our affection for the natural world. As a consumer, I find nature pictured on products; as a citizen, I hear it invoked as a moral or scientific authority; as a tourist, I find it featured at theme parks.
Nineteenth-century American artists of the Hudson River School and their successors painted panoramic landscapes that celebrated the pristine beauty of the untamed American wilderness, infusing it with spiritual significance and national pride. Such scenes inspired a sense of mingled awe, fear, and human insignificance that the Romantics called the sublime. At Niagara Falls, this vision of the American Sublime impacts park design, artists’ expressions and commercial souvenirs. Contemporary visitors view the Falls through lenses conditioned by art history or connected with souvenirs including the plastic “noble savage” featured in American Icon I.
At a Target store, I find a miniscule echo of Niagara Falls printed on a can of Lysol disinfectant spray. This reference to the pleasure and terror of the American Sublime soothes my conscience as I buy the chemical mix and winks at me in irony. As an artist, I explore visual representations of our relationship to nature.
American Icon I, 2009
Pigmented ink on canvas
21 x 26 in.