Hoover Park Drive, Stouffville: watercolour and graphite, 10”x 8”.
There is so much that remains untold in a landscape. Those pretty pictures of pristine forest, not a human in sight, and I’m guilty as charged. There is so much untold in my personal story, much that I will not say. It’s lovely to present all the beauty of the forest, of stretches of woodland that thrive in the area, and I probably (and quite wilfully) present myself as surrounded continually by woodlands, a modern day Grey Owl. But like him, it’s a bit of a lie. I don’t, for instance, discuss my part-time job that takes place in the industrial bowels of Markham. The less said about that, the better, I say, but the experiences I have there are always lurking in the background. I do my best to hide them from public viewing.
And art is often like that, especially what I call living room art, the type of art that is easy on the eye, and fits in with the decor. We edit out the unsightly details, for aesthetics, we say. Because the parked car, the discarded cup, the power lines, etc. interrupt the composition, or flow, or colour scheme. The excuses are legion, but sometimes truth must be told.
There is so much of life that seems so devoid of meaning that it feels unmentionable. The mundanity of shopping, for instance. Every Saturday, or Sunday, I go shopping; how cliché. I drive down to downtown Stouffville (yes, there is such a thing), and head along Hoover Park Drive to the local Walmart (and one should never admit to shopping at Walmart, And it’s a pretty sad drive as one cruises along extra wide suburban streets, brand new yet oblivious to the looming crisis of our car culture, and the cookie cutter houses clustered around the big box stores with parking lots so vast I often park twice in one shopping session. And along the way, a tiny beleaguered mini-forest, a last straggling stand of trees left untouched by voracious development, with a token plantation or ‘ornament’ trees, the tamaracks. Behind the trees, there is turned earth, stripped bare awaiting more the back hoes and pile drivers for some industrial ‘park’. To the fore, a river of concrete and combustion engines and of course I’m there, driving one too. We are all complicit.
What I wonder is, what does all this do our collective souls as we cut ourselves off from nature, which could better be described as ‘the way things work’, as a forest is alive with life AND death, while concrete is a sterile space that denies everything. And even while I’m walking in the woods my view of the forest is always at a distance, comfortable or otherwise, as I am only a tourist there, not a denizen.