"We can never have enough of nature. We must be refreshed by the sight of inexhaustible vigor, vast and titanic features, the sea-coast with its wrecks, the wilderness with its living and decaying trees, the thunder-cloud, and the rain." ~Henry David Thoreau
"Camp On Stampede Trail", 2008, Oil On Canvas, 9"x7" was a present to my dear friend Ed who accompanied me out to Bus 142 on The Stampede Trail in the Alaskan Interior. You can read about our entire journey here and also when I returned to the bus, by helicopter a week later here.
This little painting represents a very special time, one of those journeys that stays close to your heart and never far from your mind. Ed kindly offered to take me out to where Chris McCandless spent the last four months of his life in 1992, a place where he communed with nature and lived out his philosophy until his tragic passing in August 1992. Many have traveled to the bus where Chris spent his time, so for Ed to help me get there the hard way, over land, was truly wonderful.
Ed is an enthusiastic outdoor adventurer and he loves to pack very lightly. It makes sense really, as there is less wear and tear on your body. The tent that you see in the painting did not reach to the ground and only weighed 1 lb. You can also see our sleeping bags and some of the rest of our things beside the tent. I remember the yellow orange glow of his tent against the cool greens and muted tones of the surrounding landscape and had to capture some reference. It was about 9pm when we set up camp but the sun was pretty high still and really did not entirely go down until around 11:30pm.
We spent a good portion of our time on that gravel bar beyond the bus. We did not want to be in the way if others should visit Bus 142 while we were there. Oddly enough, when I returned on impulse to the same spot the week following my trek out with Ed, there was an army helicopter "parked" right where our camp had been. It was quite surreal and brought civilization right into this relatively remote place, 20 miles off of the George Parks Highway.
I am not being melodramatic here when I declare that visiting Alaska changed my life. I am a figure painter primarily, and yet between visiting Alaska in August 2008 and Newfoundland in September 2008 I have been surrounded by landscapes that cannot help but be painted. I will certainly return to the figure but for now, landscapes dominate my mind when it comes to subject matter. Yet we are within those landscapes, our bodies and minds exist within that time and space, often within a visual field too large and beautiful to fully process.
I believe that technique is what coheres a painter's work. A mountain, and eyelid and a wrench are all very different obviously, but it is HOW they are painted that connects them. I will take the same approach when painting my landscape pieces as I would to painting the folds of a sheet.
"Camp On Stampede Trail" is small but mighty to me. It is a thank-you to Ed, a little reminder of our time spent living in the moment, paddling across a river that would sweep us away if it had the chance, climbing mile after mile to our destination...for the road is just as important as what lies at the end of it, if there ever is an end.
"Wilderness is not a luxury but a necessity of the human spirit."~Edward Abbey
If you are interested in reading about my entire journey out to Bus 142 along the Stampede Trail please check out "Journey to Bus 142" and "Journey to Bus 142: Redux" from my other blog "Heather's Paintings And Musings".
I am going to be doing more paintings about my voyage to Bus 142 within the next year, as well creating more paintings from Chris McCandless' own pictures taken along his 2 year journey as well. It is a huge honor and I look forward to continuing these bodies of work.
Here are some sections of paintings that will appear in my solo show on Newfoundland in November at Abbozzo Gallery in Oakville, Ontario.
I am working steadily on new pieces each day. It will be an exciting show! You can find out more information about the exhibition on my website here. One of the paintings has already sold and the show is still 10 months away! If you are interested in seeing the pieces please contact Abbozzo Gallery. The show will run from November 5-22, 2009 with the opening reception happening on November 6th from 7-10pm. I hope to see you there!
Have a wonderful day,