Tulsa's Philbrook Museum of Art opens a new exhibit this weekend.
"Green Woods and Crystal Waters" looks at the variety of American landscape paintings over the past 50 years.
Few subjects have inspired artists throughout history as profoundly as nature. Viewers tend to respond strongly to paintings of the land and the connections they invoke. "Green Woods and Crystal Waters" explores the American landscape tradition through nearly 100 paintings from the last 50 years. Curator John Arthur says the landscape holds never ceases to draw painters. "The landscape is a theme that can't be exhausted," said Arthur. "It's one of the great themes that's very popular with the public."
The Philbrook exhibit includes diverse depictions of nature, from traditional to abstract. Arthur says the collection reflects the countless ways people interpret the landscape. "Some of the paintings look very photographic and they look very literal," he said. "They aren't. All of them are changed, and all of them reflect the sensibility of the painter. They're all interpretive."
The works of two former Tulsans are included in the exhibition. Daniel Lang's "Quincy Light," and "Lava-Capped Mesa," by former University of Tulsa Art Professor Alexander Hogue. Hogue was a passionate environmentalist. This is one reason Arthur thinks landscape has become even more significant. " I think for the contemporary painter, they're very much aware of what we're losing," Arthur noted. " For the public, I think, it's unfortunately a second-hand way of maintaining contact with nature. They would be better off if it were first hand."
Arthur says painters represented in the exhibit are not what the public ordinarily considers traditional painters. Yet they do have ties to the American landscape tradition. Arthur says it was based on the idea of God in nature, of the manifestation of the spiritual within the landscape. Some may see that in the paintings; others may see things entirely different. Arthur advises viewers to simply connect with the paintings. He says at its best, art reminds us of who we are. "It has to refer back to the human situation and there has to be something we can get hold of, " he said. There is much to take hold of at Philbrook in the exploration and celebration of the land. The Philbrook landscape exhibition continues through November 7th. The museum plans a number of special programs and classes to coincide with the exhibition.