Terra Reverentia

If the superior man loves the countryside, why is this so? Hills and gardens will always be the haunts of him who seeks to cultivate his original nature; fountains and rocks are a constant joy to him who wanders whistling among them.
Kuo Hsi
 
I know of no sculpture, painting or music that exceeds the compelling spiritual command of the soaring shape of granite cliff and dome, of patina of light on rock and forest, of the thunder and whispering of the falling, flowing waters.
Ansel Adams
 
nature 6. The primitive state of existence, untouched and uninfluenced by civilization or artificiality.
American Heritage Dictionary

Paradise is forgotten, discarded or disbelieved by some. Some gardens are lost forever. There is widespread irreverence for nature, or at the very least, we are bulldozing land at a frighteningly unprecedented rate. Even in our definition of nature, we separate ourselves from it: nature is that which is “untouched and uninfluenced by civilization or artificiality.” Global ecology is, on the other hand, widely discussed, written about and advocated for. The work in the “Terra Reverentia,” “Garden Study” and the “Salvage” series are not directly about the alarming rate of rain forest cut back or greenhouse gasses and the pollutants we pour into our world. Nor is the work is about the manner in which we abuse natural resources or the dismal future of our planet some have attested to. Although, these are all in my mind as I create. I am however, much more optimistic in my conception. I endeavor to create work that is about awe for nature while questioning its relevance in contemporary culture, and I choose images of landscapes to work with.

Because the term landscape—a word introduced as a technical term of painters (OED)—has evolved to mean land panorama and not only refer to cultivated land and paintings of land, the root of the word intrigued me: lendh2- open land, heath, prairie; skep- to cut, scrape, to hack, form, creation (<“cutting”): shape. Aspects of this root definition deal with nature, creativity, change and alteration—“creation,” “shape,” “form” etc.—but not with the simple act of viewing or encountering natural vista and scenery. The emphasis in this root definition is on the action of making, arranging or rearranging land—as in a painting or the construction of a dam. Furthermore, some of the words, which define landscape’s root, can also be destructive in meaning; all of which confound rather than support the current definition’s reference to scenic countryside. One can read into the terms “form,” “creation,” “cutting” and “shape” to mean genesis or “primitive state of existence,” but scenic panorama is also a separate subject. This seems a subtle distinction to make, but warranted, at present, given the ever-deteriorating condition of the planet. If all paintings of land, observed and imaginary, are landscapes, then the processes of land formation cannot be artifice. Moreover, if we are to continue to view what we do to and upon the landscape as separate from natural forces, than we need a word for land scenery that does not distinguish our influence. Since it is apparent that landscapes are always touched and influenced by “civilization and artificiality” rather than being about astonishment for what is untouched, I sought a word for a land image that did not conjure up any reference to human land rearrangement. Moreover, I wanted the definition to also be about reverence for land. There was no such single word in our language. And since my conscience would not allow reverie for a term, which could evoke negative connotations of “hacking,” I sought entomological alternatives. A new word evolved: landview. “View” seemed to be an appropriate suffix because the root of the word vision is wied- (to see, to look after, guard, ascribe to, wise, wisdom).

Articulating a distinction between a landscape and a landview spurred the aforementioned series of works which are made up of borrowed images of Medieval, Asian, Hudson River School landscapes, as well as found anonymous and folk art landscape paintings in the formats of drawing, painting and boxed construction. Specific images of painted land were referenced or appropriated for the purposes of symbolizing landscapes as vehicles for contemplation, transcendentalism, personal revelation and cultural reformation. However, they are all veiled, altered, marginalized, or “shaped” in some additional way. Like Ansel Adams’ views, the notions of veiling, of obscuring and of longing for landviews are for me, the source of my own compelling spiritual command. What is lost, missing or obscured is invoked by its apparent absence.

Todd Bartel 1995, (revised 1/15/2007)


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Terra Reverentia: Invocation

1995 

Constructed wood box, tempera, velvet, oil on linen, vines, twigs, rock, glass, mustard seeds

18 3/4” x 18 3/4” x 3 1/2”


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Terra Reverentia: The Cradle

1995

Constructed wood box, tempera, lead, mustard seeds, clay bas-relief, vines, glass, copper tape

18 1/2” x 15 1/2” x 4”


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Terra Reverentia: Walking The Garden

1995

Constructed wood box, tempera, velvet, oil on wood, gold leaf, vines, steel spikes, glass, mustard seeds

18 1/2” x 15 1/2” x 4 1/4”


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Terra Reverentia: Expulsion

1995

Constructed wood box, tempera, velvet, oil on linen, vines, clay, Greek temple bookend, glass, French pot glass, mustard seeds

18 3/4” x 18 3/4” x 3 1/2”


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Terra Reverentia: Landview Dream

1995

Constructed wood box, tempera, velvet, vines, oil on wood, gold leaf, vines, clay, glass, French pot glass, mustard seeds

20 1/2” x 18 1/2” x 3 1/2”


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Terra Reverentia: Unification

1995 

Constructed wood box, tempera, velvet, oil on wood, gold leaf, vines, clay, glass, mustard seeds

17 1/2” x 17 1/2” x 3 3/4”


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Terra Reverentia: Recrudesce

1995

Constructed wood box, tempera, velvet, vines, oil on wood, gold leaf, branches, glass, mustard seeds

15 1/2” x 15 1/2” x 3 1/2”


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