MOLLY KUGLER DICKINSON
IN THE THICK OF IT
A series of new works inspired by the winter landscape at Sachuest
Nest; brake, bramble, thicket, copse.
Like a fibonaci spiral, one can gaze into a birds nest or bramble and feel it spiral inwards towards infinity. The more one looks, the more one sees, as smaller and smaller parts reveal themselves seemingly endlessly.
I’ve had an ongoing fascination with this form over the years. The nest as a shape is both solid and open; it can reveal both its inside and outside. Contextually, it can be a shelter, a refuge, a sanctuary, a fortress; it can be impenetrable, impassable,threatening. As a subject, it is ambiguous in both form and content.
I enjoy this ambiguity. Recently I’ve found that the brambles and thickets of the winter landscape reflect and repeat the nest shape on a larger scale. All the same complexities are found; each thicket is a fascinating, endless world unto itself. Stripped of its foliage, the winter landscape reveals its underlying lines, rhythms and energies. These lines may be gestural, if one is inclined towards personification. The dormant growth seems to pulsate with suppressed energy.
This series is hung to show my works progressing from traditional landscapes and trompe l’oeile studies towards more gestural, semi-abstract explorations of these natural forms.
Fabricated Landscapes is a body of work from the last 3 years, ongoing. The paintings are, fundamentally, simple plein-air sketching. I really, truly enjoy going on location and either drawing or painting on site, a direct response to the moment in the “premier coup” tradition. Within this tradition, in recent years I have become increasingly interested in landscapes that reflect the impact of human activity; thus the term “fabricated” as these landscapes are no longer in their raw, unaltered state.
Middletown, Maine, Provincetown; these are places I’m privileged to live and visit, places where this intersection of nature and human activity is also evident. Examples: the Sachuest National Wildlife Refuge, whose sweeping vistas are the result of the land having being used for grazing, a military station and a garbage dump prior to becoming a park; Pemaquid ME, where the pine forest is unnaturally uniform due to having been clear-cut then subsequently re-growing all at one time; and the Cape Cod National Seashore, whose sweeping, fascinating dunes and vistas are the result of early English settlers over-grazing the area, then planting it with African dune grass to try to shore up the resulting erosion.
Do we find beauty in nature, or only after we have reshaped the landscape to our own purposes? Perhaps impossible to answer, as little of these lands have escaped the imprint of human activity. I paint my pieces directly, quickly, so that one feels my hand, my marks, remaking the land, too.