A New England native who grew up in West Hartford, Prilla Smith Brackett has created multiple series of conceptual landscape paintings, prints, and drawings over the last 18 years. Many of her paintings, such as Places of the Heart #17, juxtapose old-growth forests with domestic furniture. This contrast between man and nature is central to her themes of uncertainty, narrative, and memory, which she explains in the following statement:
Places of the Heart #17 is from a body of work which explores the intermingling of the domestic with the natural, by incorporating semi-transparent furniture from another era with forest imagery. The forest image is based on a photo originally taken in 1995-97 in a large stand of old-growth forest, at Big Reed Reserve, in northern Maine. I was working on a project of paintings and drawings entitled Remnants: Ancient Forests & City Trees. Now it interests me to return to those images of forests where the violence of nature and the various life stages of trees are unmodified by humans. When old furniture is placed in these forests I find the narrative and uncertainty fascinating. The furniture has personal resonance, in that it was in an old house that had been in my family for 90 years.
In these paintings, I experiment with the furniture’s transparency and its location in the forest: floating above, embedded within, or buried below. The first paint layers are in acrylic, applied indirectly using print making techniques. These colors are somewhat arbitrary, but they have a large influence on further color choices. The oil layers are thin, revealing hints of the underpainting. The layering interests me, as a metaphor for the incompleteness and elusiveness of memory.
Forests have played a large role in our histories. Forests have given us raw material and air cleansed of carbon dioxide. They have long been scary places on civilization’s edge, places of refuge and hidden secrets, of solace and spirituality, of make-believe. I tap into such associations to create spaces where the imagination can wander and memory can surface.
Origianlly from Oregon, Oxford, Connecticut, based artist Tom Yost is not only an accomplished painter, but also a gifted art restorer. His paintings often depict the rural landscape of Connecticut in a realist style. These traditional New England scenes focus on the working farms and open land of our area, and American Art Collector stated that Yost’s “work as a conservator of famous American art brings a classical feel and longevity to his paintings.” In the past two Annual Members Exhibitions at the New Britain Museum of American Art, Yost won the top prize.
From his years of studying the deterioration of paintings, Yost has learned which materials have the greatest endurance and visual effect. Therefore, he uses oil on Belgium linen treated with traditional oil and quadruple-primed gesso, as can been seen in Summer View from Painter Hill Road. This intricately rendered painting shows a hazy view of Roxbury fields in the midst of a summer day.
My objective as a landscape painter is to create realistic images that go beyond merely depicting a scene. It is my intent to capture the atmospheric quality of that location and to impart that sense of a special place and time.
Comparing these two painters, whose approach to landscape painting do you prefer? Why or why not? Does their work remind you of another painter? What landscapes hold narrative for you?