I have found that art has a tremendous capacity to capture memories. I’m not referring to the post card painting of Mt. Vesuvius from summer vacation 1998, I’m referring to deep-rooted feelings about a place and time created through the emotional interpretation response of that place. What’s more remarkable, is that these feelings can be more than personal, they can be cultural, reflecting the beliefs and responses to a landscape.
I came across the art of Dennis Blagg at the Modern Art Museum in Ft. Worth, his mural size paintings of West Texas as large as the Texas landscape itself. Growing up in West Texas, the paintings took me there immediately, not just visually but in a full immersion of senses – the “synesthesia” that Hopper sought to capture. Standing in front of Blagg’s painting of the Davis Mountains, I can sense the landscape; I feel the radiant heat of the sun upon my back while a cool breeze sweeps down the mountain carrying with it the smell of ozone; I hear the crunch of gravel and the crack of thunder. It’s more than an image of West Texas, it is the West Texas of my childhood memories.
Maine Artist Tom Curry chooses to capture not only the memory of a place, but chooses to paint a landscape in all of its provocative emotions, in what John Ruskin described as “Measuring the Moods of Nature.” A solitary island stands off-shore as a sentinel; standing against time and the elements, as though its been there from the beginning of mankind’s’ experience, as it will to its end. His island series provokes nearly every emotion we can find within us, his paintings shaping the feelings of a place and our emotional responses to it.
Winston Churchill once said, “We shape our buildings, thereafter they shape us.” As architects we should never forget the power to shape that which we are as a people through built environments. Our buildings should be as Tom Curry’s Island; forever there, reflecting the spirit of a place and forming memories through the human emotions and interactions; lasting and provocative memories that we can lovingly call upon generation after generation.