Proscenium" is a term from the theater that describes the "fourth
wall" ie the invisible barrier that separates the play/actors from the
audience. Inherent in this separation is also the audience's "suspension
of disbelief"- or allowing that the play has a certain reality that is
self-contained. The ability to transport the viewer, through the complex
synergy of adjusting the context of the viewer, is also part of the
"Proscenium" concept- the magic 4th wall resonates on both sides of the
The Proscenium paintings contain many "fourth wall"
separations. Such separations include: the ideal Western landscape and
the real Western landscape; the visually accessible vs the physically
inaccessible; the passage of time moving the audience through a
narrative/landscape; the outer world v the inner space of the car; the
separation from the active forces of the world by the windshield's
invisible barrier; the illusion of safety and the nearness of death.
original photograph itself is another removal/abstraction wherein the
camera acts as an autonomic eye capturing vast quantities of imagery
with an incredibly limited ability for the photographer (who is an
appendage of the process) to adjust the image for composition, theme,
time of day- a true snapshot aesthetic. This process neutralized the
photograph, allowing another layer of removal- which forces all choice
and meaning to the painting.
Theater occurs in painting the image, as this creates the essential
access of an implied narrative.Estrangement from the landscape is
an essential aspect of the Proscenium series. A first motivation is
also recognizing the demarcations of the heavily industrialized world
that slip into every view, and not allowing the "suspension of
disbelief" that removes these important signifiers in favor of a
romanticized story of the West. The method for gathering the images
follow certain parameters. The first is that I do not take the pictures-
I drive the car at a steady 75+mph and Elizabeth shoots. My only
direction to her is to shoot for landscape, and allow for everything
that constitutes the landscape. This removal of myself from creating the
primary images mirrors the separation of automobile travel and the
travelers' essential estrangement from the surrounding landscape. It
also illustrates the disconnected abstraction of existence for the
industrialized person, which in the Western "First" World is everyone.
is an implied complicit assent of burning the world down through
existing as an American- the images are taken from within an iconic
"American" car (assembled in America with parts manufactured elsewhere
around the world), on an interstate highway system that reaches to every
corner of the nation and is surrounded and inundated with petroleum and
travel-based industries, the images are taken with a Japanese camera
that will download images to a laptop which will download to a website,
electronics which are powered through coal burning power plants, the
paintings are made in a Hospice facility at a comfortable 70 degrees
while the outside temperature is -34. That 104 degree difference is the
fever-dream that shimmers in the mind: the real Proscenium that confuses
the play of destructive progress with the industrial living death that
is the common life of the Western World.
These Proscenium images are certainly Vanitas images in the painting tradition of the Memento Mori.
own narrative of personal wilderness immersions v industrially hovering
near the landscape (car travel) offers an underlying narrative to the
reason for all the travel of the past year. The motivation of travel
reaches toward the loss of a way of life and the loss of a way of being
that is irreversible. This is the loss of the traditional American
farm/ranch, which has been in my family on my father's side for more
than 100 years. In his lifetime the horse has been replaced by
machinery, the self-sustaining ranch of dairy cows, chickens, and a
vegetable garden being a part of the household has disappeared, and the
lost personal relationship with nature as a living primacy in day-to-day
life. The travel is due to the spread of cancer through my father, as
certain and finite as the unseen forces that demand the existence of the
ribbon of interstate and all that border it.
exponential growth of the human race tears down the world, and as
"natural resources" are compromised along with financial collapse the
terminal rate of malignant human impact on the world (the symptomatic
issues of massive oceanic die-offs and dead zones and floating
continents of plastic, melting polar caps, and the exploding extinction
rate of every terrestrial life form- insects, animals, birds, plants),
well, it is all too simple to compare humanity to cancer. A cancer that
is entering a final stage, that will effectively kill the biosphere.
Proscenium is the theater of the mind, the abstraction of soft thoughts
to distract from the Real, encouraging the rapid dispersal and
expansion of the all-pervasive cancer. In our long lived national
fantasy of the untrammeled American West, this Narrative fantasy
contains the sub-narrative of the Real. One has simply to undo the
magical edit of the mind and consider not only what is in the narrative
of the painting, but the narrative of car, travel, road, infrastructure,
and beyond these symptoms to the massive scale of destruction that
allows any of it. In this way the intent of the painting can emerge.
tipping point is long past, and humanity, like cancer, is incapable of
halting themselves from destroying their host. Not a new truth, but an
essential sub-narrative of the paintings that helps illuminate the
direction they lead.
In the span of June-Nov I found myself driving from KS to MT, MT to
UT, UT to KS, KS to UT, UT to MT, MT to UT, UT to MT, and MT to UT.
This time behind the wheel moving across the amazing Western landscape
juxtaposed itself with prior summers of mine as a mountaineer in Colorado, as
well as the time spent in the saddle and walking the expansive MT ranch. This past summer/fall road travel became my time in the
landscape- in the summer with the convertible top down, in winter with
the wind roaring through the holes in the old top with the sound of sitting near a small
waterfall- just enough to blur music to a background curiosity.
is an illusion that one is not really in the landscape, that the
windshield is somehow similar to a TV screen or a theater stage; but an
errant deer or antelope, or a patch of ice hidden in a tight canyon
curve, or a tire going, or engine trouble, or a truck drifting into my
lane- all possibilities of suddenly coalescing out of the odd spacial
warp of time/distance, emerging suddenly from the false security of the