The phrase “in the middle of nowhere” is sometimes used to describe the place where I grew up–Nebraska. I’ve heard people say how boring it is to drive from, say, western Pennsylvania to eastern Colorado. I guess those people would be from “the middle of somewhere”–places with mountains, oceans, forests–the stuff of traditional landscape painting. But after years of looking at, photographing and drawing the Midwestern landscape, I find that “nowhere” has a lot to offer.
The Midwestern landscape taught me a lot about seeing—maybe because its terrain is the bare bones of landscape—no mountains, oceans, etc. It has broad expanses of both sky and land—and one can see where they actually meet at an unobscured horizon. It offers views with opposing components–for instance, an isolated tree close to a much larger shape–a triangle of receding highway…a wedge of brown earth jutting in to a snow covered field…blue sky punctuated with poles and wires…brightly colored geometric signs amid more subdued surroundings.
I’ve lived in the Northeast for a number of years now and I tend to see its landscape on the same terms. Although this is a beautiful part of this country, beauty is not what moves me to take a photograph…rather it’s when I come upon a landscape that startles and intrigues me–a view in which things–shapes, colors, textures, light and shadow–have come together at the moment in a way that I haven’t seen before. It is a landscape that has potential for a drawing that I want to make and then share with others.