2013 American Localism by Richard Young

Wonderful ideas at 2 a.m. often appear to be full of holes in the clear light of day. Nevertheless, I propose that the Firnew Farm Artists’ Circle – our core group of 20 or so Thursday regulars – is, in spite of our eclectic interests, a relatively cohesive group of painters and photographers committed to a common philosophy – which I am calling “American Localism.”

When a patron on Friday (Nov. 9) commented that 23 of my oil landscapes on display panels “held together really well”, then struggled to compare them to the works of the American regionalists (Grant Wood, Thomas Harte Benton, et al), in response to her, “American ….,” I blurted out “localism!’ And it seemed to fit.

Earlier she had praised a seascape with another group of my works. As we talked, I had repeated portions of a conversation with Lou Messa from many months ago, wherein he had said something like, “People want to see things that are ‘local’. If you had that [seascape] at the beach, people would buy it. They want to see the hills and mountains here.” Easy to understand and buy into – it’s what we’ve been doing all along.

So when the patron struggled for the right descriptive word, my subconscious gave birth to “localism.”

At 2 a.m. this morning (Sat, Nov. 10), it seemed obvious that we Firnew artists create paintings, drawings, and photos of our local natural environment. We are all nurtured and inspired by the natural beauty around us. Our works, in predominantly a naturalistic rending/approach, depict local landmarks, the effects of the seasons, and the detail (trees, flowers, rivers, mountains, etc.) that mark them. We, as a group, generally have a cleanness and a clarity to our works, an attention to detail – in whatever medium or format each of us might be using. We show the predominance of nature. We de-emphasize man and his influence – minimize it by excluding human forms, placing buildings small and off in the distance. We definitely do NOT use the huge, dominating human forms of Benton, or even the powerful, gesturing people of the Ash Can School (Sloan, Bellow, etc.). Our works are more similar to the Hudson River School of landscape painters (Moran, Church, etc.) or a Bierstadt. However, without the landscape – the natural world – becoming over dominating. There is more of a harmony-with-place in our works, perhaps striving for an intimacy that might otherwise be missing from our busy, harried, computerized lives in the 21st century.

Our most prolific members: Trish and Lou, Sue and Bertha, Mack and Leslie, Janice and Chee, Frances and Richard, Anne and I – even digital art specialist Noah! – and perhaps, especially our photographers (Pat, Larry, Carl, etc.), usually create landscapes or landscape features, and all seldom depict people. And even our two Johns – expert portrait photographers – minimize the human presence in their local scenes.

Artists have always portrayed the world around them. And it is equally common around the globe today. But I think that as a group, the Firnew Farm Artists Circle is uniquely qualified to bear a title such as “American localists.” Will it gain international attention? Probably not. And it really doesn’t matter. But at least we may be coming closer to establishing a lasting identity.

-Richard Young