American Landscapes in Oil
“Motionless, timeless, rich with color and the carefully observed visual complexity of Iowa’s natural world, the radiant landscapes of Fred Easker describe a place where time stands still, when, just for a moment the wind dies down, and when the beauty of what he sees is ours to share and cherish with him.”
Julia Kellman, Professor Emerita, Art Education, the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign
In the 1990’s while studying American art, I became quite taken by the work of a group of 19th-century artists who collectively came to be known as the Hudson River School, particularly later artists of the period Frederick Church, Sandford Gifford, and Thomas Moran. Their work is a reverent celebration of the wonders of the natural world while keenly aware of man’s encroachment. With masterful technical skill, they created awe-inspiring, meditative images that years after their completion remain worthy of study and contemplation. Their work was the foundation of American landscape painting. Fortunately for those artists quite inspirational natural scenery was readily available to them.
I grew up in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where the artist Grant Wood created America’s most famous painting American Gothic. In Iowa, one has to look a little harder for inspiration. Nonresidents often erroneously describe the state as flat. In fact, much of the once glaciated terrain undulates with rounded hills and shallow valleys; once a prairie it is now largely consigned to rows of corn and soybeans. Still, the state is quite lovely and exudes a melodious, subtle beauty. Perhaps not so well known outside of the state, earlier in his career Wood along with his friend Marvin Cone created many landscape paintings based on the local environment he loved and understood. Perhaps his best, Young Corn was installed a few feet from my junior high school locker. So he too was in my mind when I decided more than twenty-five years ago to use what I saw in and felt about the work of those 19th-century painters to create works inspired by the Midwestern landscape where I live. Over time I discovered the rich visual potential of the bluffs along the Mississippi River and the Driftless area of northeast Iowa.
I’ve had an unconscious preference for more horizontal compositions from the start of this work. After all, automobile windshields frame how we experience the environment in the hours spent commuting and on long-distance vacations. Our visual media today is largely wide screen having moved in that direction since the days when I was growing up when films made in Cinemascope came to the theater near me. In my work I usually push horizontality for its dynamic effect, sometimes beyond what seems practical. Furthermore, I want observers to be pulled into the canvas, to linger, to discover, and savor the visual delights that make up the whole of the scene depicted as well as to enjoy the marks of the sometimes meditative process of creating the painting itself. Hopefully, you will return time after time.