I returned just days ago to Chicago in high summer, from a month-long trip out west, with hundreds of snapshots, little map-piles, and lots of great music from friends along the way played on our temperamental car stereo.
Flame knotted in the campfire pit,
hot tea in an old blue tin, and flashlight in my jacket pocket (for reading aloud in our camping tent).
The universe of the traveling materials swirls belongings and landscapes in fruitful relationships; a recently acquired map of the Oregon trail bookmarks our Collected Poems of Robert Frost, Alice Coltrane’s Journey to Satchidananda seemed to help kick up the dust on the road, friends with a world atlas point to the prairie provinces of Canada from a couch in New Mexico,
passages from Steinbeck’s time in the White Mountains in his Rocinante (from Travels with Charley) read loud
as we drifted past the mountains at Medicine Bow National Forest, and my poetry notebook, smeared at the edge with campfire soot, is lost for an afternoon in the grocery supplies, improved with honey and a few cottonwood leaves.
In Santa Fe, watching my friend Roxane thoughtfully design an arrangement of succulents on her planting table
and then photograph the final array,
I think about how artists encounter landscape—that photographs and paintings and sculptures and poems are like little “plantings” that take on their own lives within the little universe of the canvas or paper. Here is another of Roxane’s grand “universes”—her master photograph of mountains:
At the D.H. Lawrence Ranch in Taos county, we sat beneath the Lawrence Tree (where he sat everyday to write)
Here is a copy of Georgia O’Keefe’s rendering of the Lawrence Tree, planted on a post next to the pine:
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Returning to MIR after a long holiday, I am struck by the landscape paintings in our collection:
I love also thinking about the bands of artists as surveyors in 19th century America, returning from the wilderness with news of remote and fertile lands. And in its own way, the enterprise is still going on—the most wonderful part of watching the sun rise over the Grand Canyon
is to encounter the Visitors of the Grand Canyon,
many with their photographic equipment at the edge of the earth.
Isn’t it wonderful news that among the “Orchards flung out on the land,/ Urban forests, rustic plantations, knee-high hills” and “damp plains, overgrown suburbs,/ Places of known civic pride, of civil obscurity” (Ashbery, from “The One Thing That Can Save America”), the wilderness still gathers and grows and mends out here in America?
Written by Jessica Savitz
Principal Appraiser: Farhad Radfar, ISA AM
307 N. Michigan Avenue, Suite 308
Chicago, IL 60601