Van Gogh’s Drawings

Last night I visited Simone‘s studio, and she’s working on a series of paintings which involve depicting landscapes in a sort of hyper-detailed, surreal way … building up forms and textures with mark-making. She said it took her all day to draw two rocks. Definitely worth the time investment though; they are looking gorgeous.

They reminded me of Van Gogh’s drawings. So many different kinds of marks all in one image, each describing a different kind of surface: little dots, big dots, C-shapes, circles, cross-hatching, short lines, long lines, squiggly lines …

Even describing the atmosphere:

It almost reminds me of atoms, in a loose way. Each substance is made up of the repetition and accumulation of a specific, tiny, elemental unit.


Simone continued our conversation about Eastern vs. Western landscapes…

She wrote about how she’s come to understand a traditional “western” landscape as: “devoid of people and buildings, and more focused on the grand narrative of NATURE and UNSPOILT WILDERNESS, as often associated with The West (in itself a falsehood – for instance, Ansel Adams cropped the tourists and souvenir stores out of his photos of Yosemite.)”

Cropping … selectively including what you want and leaving out the inconvenient details. So Ansel Adams, the father of American landscape photography, swept the dirt under the carpet.

Rebecca Solnit wrote:

By the time the definitive Adam, Ansel Adams, began photographing in the tradition of his Yosemite predecessors, the myth of Yosemite as an uninhabited place and the U.S. Army’s 1851 invasion as a “discovery” had begun to become dogma. Amazingly, the indigenous population never vanished, as Indians were popularly supposed to have done when they were remembered at all; they merely became invisible in this most visible place in the natural world. Invisible inhabitants of a small valley visited by millions annually, they became invisible in the public imagination of the relationship between nature and culture, perhaps because they had disappeared from the representations that mediated most people’s sense of the place.

The photo above is not by Adams, it’s by Lilledeshan Bose. I’m glad she left the tour buses in the picture.

East/West Landscape Swap

Simone and I are trading landscapes. My New York/New Jersey for her California:

This photo was made with a pinhole camera.

I’ve been interested in those since high school, when one of my classmates made a giant pinhole camera using the principal’s one-window office. She covered the window in black paper and poked a tiny hole. The whole class crowded inside the pitch-dark room. After our eyes adjusted, we could see what was going on outside, projected upside down on the wall across from the window. We could see cars passing and people walking. We were inside the camera.

This image is made up of three views of the same location. (Correct me if I’m wrong, Simone.) It’s one continuous exposure, but the overlap of the different views distorts our sense of scale: notice the way the close-up grass blends into the distant shore on the right, cutting off the ocean so it looks like a river. And those two houses are actually the same felt sculpture from different angles.

For more about why I think shifting perspective is so cool (meaning multiple viewpoints & perspective systems in the same image), see this post.

Here are two normal-camera photos that Simone took in the same place: