What makes an artwork a landscape? There is a general understanding that a landscape is a depiction of natural scenery, but the way we define and orient ourselves with the outdoors has developed drastically since modernism and the digital age. Landscapes, being primarily non-human, have now become a stage for an artist to describe what they don’t understand and cannot control. In essence, landscapes explore the perplexities and paradoxes of the human perspective.
Andrea Bartine Caldarise’s psychological and whimsical memory-scapes are the perfect example of the fantastical romanticism thriving through en plein air painting today. Caldarise blends different perspectives in a way that reminds us of our own personal inclinations at every moment we take in new terrain.
Andrea Bartine Caldarise’s work is part of the group show “Depth Perception,” curated by Morgan Everhart and Mel Reese. The show explores spatial relativity through a range of visual and audible hierarchies, featuring works by Traci Johnson, Andrew Keiper, Rachael Wren, and the curators Everhart and Reese. The exhibition is on view at The Yard City Hall Park in New York City through February 10, 2022.
We spoke with Caldarise about real and imagined narratives and the hope that her works’ stories continue the conversation long after they leave her studio.
What characteristics of landscapes do you incorporate into your artwork? Conversely, what characteristics of landscapes do you consciously refrain from depicting in your art?
My narrative landscapes explore the tension between real and surreal, often weaving in personal and collective anxieties around climate change, land use, and public versus private space. Many paintings explore how nostalgic spaces exist in the crossroad between memories, real and imagined, and our present reality. By investigating various viewpoints—historical, personal, and imagined—we create empathy within our ever-changing world. Our current moment in time has unleashed a cacophony of emotions: unique, collective, terrible, sad, at times joyful and new. The fabric of our social lives is being re-worked, our living spaces are re-imagined, our public spaces rediscovered.
What makes your landscape narrative?
The work can act as an oculus for examining experiences, imagined moments, and accessing our collective memory. Each painting sets out to tell a story—a narrative—and I hope that it can continue the conversation long after it leaves my studio.
Could you share some formal operations in your work that make the narrative happen?
I try to keep the compositions open and built with tension like you’ve just arrived on a stage. In this way, the viewer can project their narrative.
Who do you make your art for and why?
Public spaces are visceral, storied environments—my practice explores the psychological connection of people and place through the language of landscape painting.
I want the painting to shift over time and be adaptable and specific, like re-reading a favorite book. It’s never quite the same as that first read; each subsequent experience is overlaid on the time before.
What are the specific qualities of your paintings that make them ‘adaptable’ to change over time? What qualities make them ‘specific’?
The way a short story can be fluid, transcending time and space through themes central to the human experience, my paintings can trigger different emotions in viewers. Using specific markers, like a particular rock cropping, or common signage, the work places itself in a familiar landscape.
How do you think people may read your artwork “They wanted a clean break” in 100 years from now?
They may think of it as a painting of building ruins, but I think of it as a dreamscape of place and time.
Is there something your artwork is recontextualizing or possibly exposing?
The way we as a community move through and experience environments is thought-provoking for my practice. Who walked this path before? Who’s lived in that house? Does anyone else love this particular tree in Prospect Park? These questions have come up again and again while investigating familiar landscapes.
Walking through the park, researching historical accounts, or even happenstance conversations with random people can influence my painting process. I read a lot, and I’m often inspired by authors who deal in magical realism. Italo Calvino, Jorge Luis Borges, and Haruki Murakami have influenced the way I think about space and time, our reality, and the one just beyond our grasp. Carl Jung’s theories on synchronicity and the nature of phenomena are intriguing as they offer this scientific approach to breaking the fourth wall—that loss of stability in our known environment.
Do you have any exciting interactions or conversations you’ve had with pedestrians as you’ve worked in plein air that you’d like to share? Did this interaction inform your process in any way? If so, we’d like to hear how so.
I often get stopped by strangers because they want to tell me a story. This is one of my absolute favorite parts of living in the city. They may tell stories from when they used to live in that building or about that time when there was a bizarre incident here. Often their conversation is rooted in the immediate place we are standing and will illuminate a new perspective for that place.
Could you share the process and intentions of creating one of your artworks in the show?
The painting “From the Rose Garden into the vale of Cashmere” is centered around the concept of capturing the ephemeral. It started with the desire to paint the melting snow and showcase a particularly lovely and secluded part of Prospect Park. Walking through the park and reading about historical accounts are both critical to my working process.
I primarily use oil-based mediums. Oil has a particular feel: the color, texture, and luminosity are seductive. I really love that oils are an all-encompassing experience—they even have a particular smell. When I start a painting, I get the sense I’m coming back to an old friend or entering a well-worn path. I’m engaging with this epic history through the ritual of palette and canvas preparations. Drawing is also a huge part of my studio practice; I like the planning process inherent in oil painting. You have to consider how the solvents and paint will interact and map your compositions. The process of layering is analogous to the prevalent theme in my art practice—the revealing of new perspectives or unraveling our fixed reality.
What advice, feedback, or reflections would you like to share with other artists?
Just keep making work, be generous with yourself and to other artists.
Find more information on the exhibition on Everhart’s website.