The urban landscape in my work is very specific, since I am forever a minimalist. Views are therefore often from afar, and affected by atmospheric effects or late light. Towns with just some architectural elements framed by the natural are easily softened and embedded, the manmade embraced by natural bodies of water; mountains or fields; stands of trees.
The city that I have painted most frequently is New York, having lived there for a decade and flollowing that living close enough to be in and out with some frequency. Well traveled paths and views like the West Side Highway and views looking West to New Jersey crop up often, and most likely will again.
My path to urban imagery began many years ago when I introduced phone/electric poles and lines to my landscapes, creating straight lines and a mood that plays with the notion of what is idyllic, accepting what is. Since then, I have moved on to include many other signs of human habitation and intervention in my landscapes, including my headlights/road pieces (see the post “Roads and Bridge Views”, archived in the month of November, 2011); industrial imagery; and towns and cities. We spend so much of our time driving through terrain that contains or is comprised of manmade landscapes that to forever edit out these objects or scenes seems like an unnecessary effort, especially when the play of light and atmospheric conditions can make them so compellingly beautiful.
“Westerly Sky”, 16″X20″. A perfect example of the right angles and straight lines of the NYC foreground meshing with the soft diagonals of the sky. (Courtesy of Albert Shahinian Fine Art.)
“Snow in the City”, 18″X18″. The sounds of tires muffled by the snow, very little echo—a transformation of the urban landscape. (Private collection.)
“Skyline with Grasses”, 20″X20″ A view from the Meadowland’s. The Pampa’s Grass heads in the foreground required a great deal of work to read properly and yet let the eye sail over them to the skyline beyond. What I love the most about this piece is that it is so quiet, the urban imagery creating a subtle energy as backdrop to a drizzly shore day with the smell of marsh and salt air. (Private collection.)
“Sunset Roofline”, 24″X30″, a much closer view than I normally do. When living on East 27th Street, I spent time every day practicing T’ai Chi on the roof of my building, an experience that provided a sense of openness and sky not available at street level.
Below are several West Side Highway pieces. The approaches to New York City, bound by water on all sides, are the perfect urban images for me, contrasting reflective spaciousness with the dense, geometric patterns of a city.
“On Ramp”, a West Side Highway image with filtered winter light gleaming on the Hudson. (Private collection.)
“Exit Ramp” 24″X18″, the strong diagonals creating a dynamic composition and a gleam on the Hudson a dramatic backlight. (Private collection.)
Below are two pieces with vantage points that are so far off that the painting is much more vista than urban…and yet they reveal a hint of city.
“Lonely Ship/New York Harbor”, 30″X36″, a moody/joyful take on the harbor and shores of Jersey and Staten Island. (Private collection.)
“River with Big Sky”, 24″X30″, a view looking south from the Tappen Zee bridge, the sky—one of my favorites, ever— dwarfing the land and water, yet pointing gently to the distant skyline and river banks.
Provincetown is an equal parts mix of happy, busy people and glorious bay, harbor, and beach with tidal flats. The density of humanity is part of the point, and is even reflected in beachcombings, where, along with shells and rocks and feathers one can find beautifully weathered pieces of plywood and bits of patinaed fiberglass.
“Provincetown”, 20″X30″, looking back at the wharf from Fanizzi’s restaurant one cold December day. Often the shore, if it is just water, sky, and maybe beach, has the same range of color and light in winter as in summer. Here, the only telltale sign that it is winter is the lack of moored boats in the harbor. (Courtesy of the Julie Heller Gallery.)
These three small Affinities of Provincetown are a blend of town and beach, like Ptown itself. (Private collection.)
“Gleaming Sky over Provincetown”, 11″X14″, the approach that I love so much. The sky is always doing some fabulous island-y display. (Courtesy of the Julie Heller Gallery.)
“Evening Lights”, 12″X24″ a soft sunset above the first lights of the evening. (Courtesy of the Julie Heller Gallery.)
Oak Bluffs on Martha’s Vineyard is another beautiful town by the sea, busy with humanity but with wide open views of Nantuket Sound and it’s own harbor.
“Ocean Park Fog”, 3 panels of 10″X20″/ea., the park surrounded by beautiful old ship captain’s houses. The source of the fog is the sound on the left, out of sight. (Courtesy of the Dragonfly Gallery.)
“Serene Seaview Morning”, 18″X24″. Even though the sound and dunes on the right take up a large portion of the image, the piece is very much structured by its manmade elements, with the straight horizon of the sea echoing the vertical line of the phone pole. A much larger row of houses exits on the left than I have shown, edited to heighten the solitary feel of the painting. (Courtesy of the Dragonfly Gallery.)
Finally, a last NYC painting that is much busier than I usually do. As I was painting this piece, the Jersey shoreline seemed to compel me to keep adding lights!
“Light Exchange”, 24″X40″. T the sunset reflects on water and clouds, a complementary palette of soft purples and oranges.
From the water, at the best time of day to be on the river in the summer.
One of my versions of the view from Olana, impossible to resist. (Private collection.)
One of those bright/hazy days, softening all edges, Kingston Lighthouse on the left. The divided format creates rhythm and brings the eye back to the surface of the painting.
Like most of these, a view from the water. Sunset over the Catskills, as minimalist as can be. (Private collection.)
A spot further downstream, where the shores create dramatic bluffs. (Private collection.)
Very often I plan on including the lighthouse—they appear in so many views—but then opt not to. Here, it fits well as a sign of human imprint, along with the sailboats. This is Esopus Light, situated way out in the middle of the river, warning boats from the shallows to its west.
A view of the Newburg/Beacon bridge from the train on the east bank, with a crazy sunset gleam reflected from the girders onto the water below.
In this piece the serenity of the scene and the balance of the composition led me to omit the lighthouse on the left. The Catskill MOuntains are behind the river’s edge.
I love the river marshes just as I love saltmarshes, the grasses outlining shapes against the expanses of water.
Deep dusk, playing with a camera-blur effect in the shore lights.
Though flanked by shores on either side, the river is wide and the sky big. (Private collection.)
Moonlit river looking west from Poet’s Walk in Rhinebeck.
A snippet of river in the vertical format, revealing the gleams of the setting sun without showing the sun itself. (Private collection.)
The Hudson from the West Side Highway, nearing where it feeds into New York Harbor. (Private collection.)