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what is a landscape?

How do you envision an image of the ‘Landscape’ to be in contemporary terms?? How do you imagine its visual expression? Is it still with idyllic depictions of unaltered vistas, like ones created by such artists as Carelton Watkins, Ansel Adams, Edward Weston, Eliot Porter and Clyde Butcher? Or has it become more urbanized in its outcome, a less untouched representation of the land as seen in works by Stephen Shore, Joel Meyerowitz, Robert Adams and Joel Sternfeld? There is also the possibility that the environmentally conscious viewer might find the landscape to bear witness to its own destruction by man, lending itself a visual outcome best described by artists like Edward Burtynsky, David Maisel, and Richard Misrach.

Of course there is another option that is often overlooked, possibly because it is hard to ‘see’, difficult to comprehend as a typical ‘landscape’, even in contemporary terms. This form of landscape begins as an internal suggestion – poking its own idea at more random visual stimuli. It stems from that place where one gets lost in thought; in the space where visual identification and association isn’t being made, but rather where the mind wanders.

These expressions – visual pauses – are often the triggers that free the mind of its wild meanderings, and are recognized in the instant before returning to the real. They are witnessed only briefly and identified with something known – perhaps a landscape as an outcome. The trick is then to rest with that ‘capture’, create something more tangible and permanent with its formation.

In our fast moving societies, with our technological advances, our need for constant information and sensory stimuli, we have actually drawn inward, relying more on what we think we know than through life experience. Our landscapes come from within our minds, traced by our thoughts and emotional states of the precise moment. My current work investigates my own mental awareness and creation of such landscapes – allowing them to become more fully recognized, and for me to capture and express them in visual terms. This development can be seen below.


The next phase will be to translate them back to a more historical context, closing the circle of what a landscape can be.

::Trace Nichols