For this exercise, we were asked to read and make notes on Deborah Bright’s essay “Of Mother Nature and Marlboro Men”. We were asked to note key points of interest and any observations we had.
I found the piece, quite challenging at times, this may have been down to the length of it though (11 pages in total). However, you a got into it I found it very interesting and was able to relate a lot of it to the work about female artists I have previously done in my Understanding Visual Culture module, in particular
My thoughts and observations
- I was surprised by how much landscape art has changed over time. In the 17th century it was very much person led i.e. it was about showing something that had been man made or owned (estates). This made me think of an image I have seen at Shugborough Hall which was created to show the estate and the various monuments around it (http://www.bbc.co.uk/arts/yourpaintings/paintings/a-view-of-shugborough-and-the-park-from-the-east). By the 19th century, landscape art was about people wanting to see places that appeared untouched/undiscovered.
- I got the feeling while reading, that we are very conditioned by society. There are many examples of this throughout the essay such as
- The idea that through postcards, advertising etc we are drawn to the landscapes because as we are told it is beautiful or it gives a best image of the place/view. In general, as the quote suggests, “They were not impressed by the wilderness itself”.
- In the 1920’s, the Landscape Architecture Division created roads that weaved through beauty spots and even gave turnoffs and laybys for tourists to take photos. By doing this, anyone who passed by, regardless of whether they thought it was particularly interesting may have felt that they had to stop and take in the view or photograph it.
- Trails and tourist attractions were created to be as efficient as possible so tourists could get the most from them. Tourists were therefore told where the best spots were which meant they often didn’t explore the spaces for themselves.
- We are “told” what art is by galleries and museums. A long while ago, art patrons would only be interested in high quality art which cultivated and elevated aesthetic taste. They were not interested in art that had a political agenda.
- The way in which we view landscapes and how our opinions of them change over time. For example ideas about what constitutes beautiful, how things should be preserved or developed. These ideas/opinions are also shaped by the economic climate, for example after WW2 people wanted to see how the landscape had changed after the bombings and were less interested in that which went before as we looked at in exercise 4:2 (https://kunsworthphotography.wordpress.com/2015/11/05/landscape-exercise-42-landscape-for-everyone/ )
- How landscape art is male led. The stereotype is that men are the owners of land/landscapes, they explore and hunt landscapes (looking for the undiscovered), men are rugged (able to cope with harsh landscapes and wilderness) and lastly they are able to dominate a landscape and manipulate it to their advantage. Whereas women are seen as very passive. As I mentioned previously, men dominate but women make more of a spiritual connection with their surroundings. There is always an exception to this idea i.e. a woman could be dominate and a man passive, however regardless of the gender of the viewer, people can interpret the same view in many different ways none of which would be wrong.
- The development of tourism over the last 100 years or so. The growth seemed to be quite rapid and carefully considered to get the most they could for both the tourist and those running hotels and attractions etc. Roads were created to show off the best views and for easy access, postcards were available in case you couldn’t get the shot you wanted, the list goes on.