Stories From The Snap Shack. Issue 3 (June 5th 2022)
"The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes". Marcel Proust
Lessons From the River
Creating modern landscape art in New York's Hudson River Valley means gazing upon and capturing views, seen in 1609 by its namesake Henry Hudson, that launched the first school of landscape painting in the U.S. -- the mid-19th century's 'Hudson River School'. Enraptured by the raw beauty of the nearby countryside, a network of NY painters created something fresh, celebratory, and distinctly American in the large scale and wildness of what they saw and painted. In the doing not only did these artists create a lasting school of art, they also changed the very nature of how Americans view and value the natural world, inspiring a preservation movement which influenced the growth of both state and national park systems.
And so as I do every time I shoot on the magnificent Hudson river, yesterday I reflected on Henry Hudson and these artists as we headed north by boat…
Laying my eyes, as they did, I took in the sensual curved slope of the forest covered ridgelines, their lush green rising to a bright blue sky accented with a sprinkling of white clouds. The mountains serving as a perfect frame for the flowing green waters of the river, birds skimming its surface, the tide pulling it toward the sea.
I felt the awe, privilege and gratitude which comes in sharing the timeless beauty of the earth with these others who came before me. What a precious gift it is to simply be alive. I mean after all; life isn’t a given. There are a lot of moving parts necessary in the making of a human. And despite our best efforts, someday this life will end.
I thought about the river itself and Leonardo Da Vinci’s quote “when you put your hand in a flowing stream, you touch the last that has gone before and the first of what is still to come”. There is only that fleeting moment when the droplets touch the hand.
Perhaps feeling this ever-changing nature of the river the River School artists often returned to the same landscape, to look at it with “new eyes”, to see something renewed and different. It is impossible to not contrast this habit with our TikTok era human compulsion to move on to the next, new view. But how little that compulsion lights up our capacity to deeply perceive the views in our world.
Don’t we need to consider our very living more gratefully, linger in its moments, places and people longer, more fully…to better see, to better be?
This blog is produced from my Piermont studio, known by my inner circle as Kate's 'Snap Shack'. Enjoy and share with others in your inner circle.