My eye takes in the landscape as we fly over the Grand Canyon at thirty-five thousand feet. It is the second time this year that I have viewed it. The first time was from the perspective of standing on the rim, this time from high above. I notice patterns that form, repeat, shift and change as we glide through the scenery. Everything curves, swirls and leads the eye around and away and back again, like the oxbow rivers. I laugh out loud at a detail on the bottom of mountains that remind me of the pleated skirts on my grandmother’s slipcovers. The only straight lines are occasional highways in this vast canvas of nature’s painting.
An insight comes to me; I have never been fond of fixed point geometric perspective in Renaissance painting. As an artist, professor of design and a student of Art History, that is my least favorite period. Now I know why. It is not the way most people view the world: through an absolutely static lens as the viewer is fixed to one point in space. In reality, we move our eyes, we shift our view, we see the sides and fronts and sides of things again.
We modern people move through life. Every place I have travelled to has its own rhythm. Italy during the Renaissance did too and I don’t think the art we see reflects that. Renaissance art has more permanence; it’s closer to Egyptian sculpture. It never lets you get ahead of yourself. You must walk a straight line until you reach the horizon, or take a sharp angle to turn left or right.
Impressionism freed us from the tyranny of fixed shapes. We had to collaborate with the artist to find the cathedral in the landscape. Expressionism brought us to the moment of conception of a painting, when the paint hit the canvas and left a contrail.
As an art student, creating designs came naturally to me. Applied art has a purpose and the decoration of surface was an extension of the principles of art I learned in undergraduate and graduate programs. My own artwork used dyes to create marbling on paper or fabric and resulted in textile designs for the apparel industry. Seeing them now I am aware how closely they resemble the aerial landscape of the Grand Canyon. It would be hard to find a rigid straight line in any of my drawings or paintings. Adding a digital element to more recent work I scan portions of my hand-made fabrics and then manipulate them using artist software programs to break and bend and twirl the shapes even further. I am surprised to see the patterns mirroring the view from thirty-five thousand feet above Arizona and Colorado.
Dr. Geraldine Khaner Velasquez is a member of the Ollie Writers Group. She is Professor Emerita of Art and Design and will be teaching the fall 2018 lecture “Vincent Van Gogh: His Loves, His Letters, His Art.”