The Art of Questioning Perception

I cannot begin to recall how many times I’ve crossed New York State on I-90. From Batavia, where I grew up, to Albany where I studied, or passing Erie & to the Iron City of Pittsburgh, my last home before moving to the Hudson Valley. But, it is wrong to say that I “crossed” the state on this road, since this is one of those highways that unfolds before a traveler, magnetically pulling bodies forth like an undertow & opening up into ever wider expanses. Where I-90 passes Albany, the earth rests quietly in a patch of flatlands that span the triangular gap between the rising Catskills to the south, the Berkshires to the east & the Adirondacks to the north. Space there, in this sense, opens in a westward direction.

For the past five years, Luke Williamson has painted the I-90 landscape in a series that delivers the unraveling feeling a traveler of those parts will know in his bones as he pushes west past Schenectady, Utica, Syracuse, & into the Genesee Valley, my own stomping ground & gateway to the Great Lakes. This upstate / central / western region is an elongated glacial depression defined by a southeastern jet-stream that acts as a constant reminder of the ancient ice’s slow & atrocious trajectory. Straying from the traditional flock of Hudson Valley painters, Williamson has refrained from plucking that pristine chord to play the natural-ized Music of the Spheres; although, his technical dexterity in other landscapes, namely those on his website, does show his decision to work through rather than around the tradition.

What sets Williamson’s painting apart is the way it highlights the very modality in which it  represents a landscape. It surpasses the notion of the landscape as secret-keeper, an object-in-itself, in order to explore the relationship between the landscape & the perception that opens up toward it. It is at once self-reflective & critical of visual art in the new millennium. I must add, the fact that this article on Williamson’s painting is being distributed via RSS & contains digital reproductions of his oil on canvass reinforces the relevance of his argument & makes these words the perfect target for his critique.

The closer we look at the clouds in Williamson’s painting, the more we notice that they are pixelated & from those nebulous bodies disintegrate into nearly abstract shapes. At their apogee, they are nothing more than chromatic quadrilaterals. Such is the sky in the eyes of this artist: bricks of color. This pixelated atmosphere denies the viewer the luxury of forgetting that… Continue reading article at Barner Books Blog.

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