America is a vast country. Even today, there is probably too much acreage for the people who inhabit the place, and we lay a lot of it to waste. The land itself can be breathtaking, though the tangles of roadway connecting our homes and points of interest are rarely scenic; they are littered on each side with hastily erected fast food joints, strip malls, scrub land.
Having spent way too much of my life on America's roads, I really appreciated Margaret Morrison's bleak, beautiful highway oil paintings, now being shown by the Woodward Gallery in NYC. She draws beauty from these bleak roadways, using not only the colors they exude, but also the promises they hold. These are landscapes, but ones where the geometries of man jostle against those of nature. Edward Hopper updated for McDonald's age.
"Anywhere I went involved being in the car for at least six hours. I think a lot of it was just growing up out west," Morrison told me at the opening Saturday. "The landscape goes on for 50 to 100 miles, so I longed for that vantage point."
Such drives encouraged reflection for Morrison, a peaceful time to contemplate on the horizon point. "You're surrendering yourself to time spent in the car where you're not really plugged in. There's just something about it that draws me into a deeper space."
Morrison now lives in Athens Georgia, where the distance is shrouded by the state's wealth of foliage. There, "I'm constantly under the treeline, and I can never really look down a really long expanse," she said.