The shifting and hostile landscape of contemporary America has many longing for simpler and better times. The one constant in the past fifty years has been the suburban landscape. For most Americans, it has always been there. Half of all Americans live and work in the suburbs. Every American has been exposed to it.
Popular culture has widely spread the image. It is a symbol of both America’s promise and America’s shortcomings. If we are going to move forward together as a nation then we must be honest about all aspects of our past and how it has shaped our present.
Images are important to me as a painter because of their power to examine and transform beliefs. An image can invoke the same feelings in a person as if they were in the presence of the real thing. This is why religions throughout time have used idols and icons in their ceremonies.
Painting is a medium that matches the transformative influence images and the environment have on us. The use of paint to capture the spirit of the time has a long history in the United States. The early 20th century saw Precisionist artists like Charles Demuth and Ralston Crawford who “consistently reduced their compositions to simple shapes and underlying geometrical structures, with clear outlines, minimal detail, and smooth handling of surfaces” (Murphy, 2007) to capture urban and industrial landscapes. At that time America was just starting to emerge on the world stage. As the First World War raged on, the Allied forces turned to the United States for resources. The industrial outputs and agricultural abundance of the Midwest flowed through American port cities to the world.These artists provided the foundation for American painters of the 20th century and established how painters mirrored the cultural changes of the nation.
These cultural and aesthetic changes in America were reflected in the work of American painters. Abstract Expressionism came to prominence during this post war era. Mark Rothko and Jackson Pollock represent American painters of this time who “made monumentally scaled works that stood as reflections of their individual psyches” and “valued spontaneity and improvisation … They accorded the highest importance to process”. Jackson Pollock particularly demonstrated the change in the aesthetic of American art when compared to the work of his teacher Thomas Hart Benton. “Even when depicting images based on visual realities, the Abstract Expressionists favored a highly abstracted mode.