Thursday, December 2, 2010

Not Just a Walk in the Park

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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.

7 comments:

Chrissy said...

A very thought provoking post and one that fits well with me. I don't really talk about my job much either and of course there is plenty of ugliness here too.
But, I am lucky enough to live near some beautiful countryside and I choose to emerse myself in it together with my readers. I choose to omit bits.....
I think your power line here tells a story though. Perhaps a little realism is good to make us appreciate the woods and the forest enough to protect it.....

kaslkaos said...

Thanks Chrissy. Art is all about omissions, isn't it? The omissions themselves probably speak volumes.

Jenny said...

You raise some interesting and uncomfortable ideas. I'd like to think that I can handle some of the uglier landscapes that humans create, but to be honest, even there I am selective. For instance, I can actually admire the aggressive, aesthetically interesting industrial scene of a steel mill or an oil refinery, but something like a typical mall/Walmart/convenience store/fast food conglomeration seems so ugly that I can hardly bear to look at it sometimes. I was in New England last week visiting my sister, and I kept noticing how many picturesque New England towns, very nice if you just look at the town green and the old church, have those sorts of conglomerations growing to one side, like a tumor. What kind of world have we created for future generations?

kaslkaos said...

Jenny, you've just described my town too. And disturbing yes. I've been part of the grind of modern life, and I know for a fact it kills souls, leaving empty shells in the place of human beings. The buildings are just an outward manifestation of what we are doing to ourselves...
PS. bloggers, I promise to not be always this much of a downer. Sometimes things need to be said, though.

Michelle (artscapes) said...

Thought provoking - and yes - disturbing post. (Love it when you do these!)

I am always painting about a kind of death - nature reclaiming these paved over or built places. I think we come at the same feeling from opposite directions.

The soulless places you speak of here will one day be reclaimed. We are the losers for allowing the gaps to widen, making ourselves visitors, living in denial and missing our connection to a powerful force that we will never dominate, only alter temporarily... Nature will continue, we just won't see her magic.

jo said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
kaslkaos said...

Belately thank you Michelle, for liking this post. It was easy to write, yet such a rare occurrence. They just happen.

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