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The Modern Pastoral


One of the most interesting parts about leaving the borders of New York City is the landscape that greets you the second you leave. The hulking buildings and concrete sidewalks give way to open roads and clusters of trees. The sky goes on, largely uninterrupted. Silence dominates noise. You know, nature.

When you’re in Manhattan long enough, you begin to be convinced that it’s all that exists--that just beyond the next block and the block after that, the landscape continues indefinitely, the whole world a block of apartment complexes and local bodegas. This, one supposes, is the hubris that happens when you live in a place like New York. We conquer nature, throw up buildings, and forget that before the 17th century, Manhattan was just a series of trees flanked by bodies of water you might actually want to swim in.

In an effort to subtly remind us of nature in an age dominated by technology and urban environments, artist Jon Braley creates works that can best be described as landscape abstractions—the modern pastoral, if you will. Replacing herds of sheep cruising wheat fields (something us city people can hardly relate to at this point), Braley favors slight references to organic matter in punches of color and in organic, wisps of forms, exploring the raw core of nature.

Working with natural colors with a resin finish, Braley uses his hands to paint, furthering the organic nature of the piece by removing a step between himself and the canvas (namely, a brush). From the palate to the painting, everything is about subtly reconnecting you with the idea nature… even if you live in a place where trees seem about as hard to come by as business class flight upgrades.

Images courtesy of James Freeman Gallery and the artist.