Artists interpret landscape across expansive media

The Lederer Gallery hosted the opening reception of its “Landscape Today and Tomorrow” exhibition on Sept. 5. Sixty-three submissions are currently on display in the gallery from professional artists across the country. The exhibit defies close-minded definitions of “landscape”––and of art, for that matter. According to director of galleries Cynthia Hawkins, “The theme for the whole show is current conditions of our landscape environment and possible futures for it.” A wide array of media, colors and shapes interplay to create the exhibit. Pieces vary from watercolor paintings to photographs, from traditional to impressionistic. Even maps and collages are featured in the show.

Rural settings and urban sprawl are almost equally represented. Disaster is a prevalent theme, both natural and not.

“[One artist used] the tsunami as a way of fragmenting the work. Other people have used color in ways that imply the toxicity of the environment,” Hawkins said. Many of the scenes depicted feel fractured or otherwise damaged.

Still, there is no universal mood or tone; works run the gamut from serene to scary. Hawkins said that landscape pieces could convey “either something very negative or something very positive.” Featured artist Ronnie Cramer’s “Weld” depicts a calm, almost desolate farm scene, while the dark, muted tones of contrasting artist Alice Valenti’s “Night Branches” and “Strawberry Turf” are almost sinister in their subtlety. Emotion does play a significant role in making the exhibit feel cohesive, whatever that emotion may be.

Texture is another major factor linking some of the more modern pieces together. Artist Bruce Blanchette’s acrylic “Bound Landscape” piece is extremely colorful and appears to be restrained by tangible cords. William Ruller’s “Waiting for Others” makes oil on paper appear rough and tactile, even through a glass frame.

One of Hawkins’s personal favorites is Judith Brandon’s “Stratus Twister.”

“The cloud formation is really nuanced with a balance of light and dark,” she said. Brandon’s use of contrast is notable, with orange and yellow pastels playing off the grays and blacks in order to make the storm clouds appear as even more threatening.

Robert Robbins’ oil on canvas piece “Over Under,” drew the attention of fellow artist Laura Victore. “There’s a beautiful depth here and an interesting perceptual shift. From a distance you see one thing and when you get closer you see another,” Victore said. “It’s very calm and then suddenly very ominous––you’re in nature and then all of a sudden you’re under a bridge in the Bronx.”

This idea of transcendence applies to many of the other landscape pieces. In a way, Robbins’ piece functions as a microcosm of the entire exhibit.

Victore’s own piece, “Lifting Crops,” is simultaneously futuristic and nostalgic. The digital print simultaneously appears as a field of crops and of a field of computer chips, or perhaps architectural plans, with blue sky looming large. This stark juxtaposition of today and tomorrow embodies the spirit of the exhibit even better than the vague murkiness of Robbins’ painting.

What is striking about the exhibit is the astounding diversity.

“Differences can exist throughout nature, throughout art,” Hawkins said. “It depends on who’s making it and it depends on who’s looking at it.” “Landscape Today and Tomorrow” will be on display until Oct. 9 at the Lederer Gallery.