In a culture that increasingly separates us from the natural world, my interest is in how we relate to it, how it lives in our minds and memories, and can provide a sense of belonging, of connection, of home.
Several years ago, I received a grant from the Genesee Valley Council on the Arts. My project was to paddle the Genesee River from Pennsylvania to Lake Ontario, and produce a sketchbook of the trip.
To me, a sketchbook is a visual diary, a place for personal exploration and reflection. In producing this sketchbook, I realized I didn't really care about what I was doing. Not the paddling, that was great. But the sketchbook, something destined for a drawer somewhere, not to be seen til my kids settled my estate -- so what?
I turned to the two things that always clear my head and provided me answers- reading and the outdoors. I have always been more comfortable outside than in, and I have accumulated a lifetime of visiual memories, memories of time and place. After years of painting, I always return to the same question of why? Why paint? What compels me to make pictures, and why am I drawn to the landscape more than anything else.
Reading and rereading the works of Barry Lopez, Richard Nelson, and Hugh Brody lead me to the belief that we hold remnants of landscape in our minds as a way of navigating our world pre-map, compass, and gps. Many of the pieces in the show here reflect my exploration of this idea, that the memory of simple forms and shapes in the land orient us, locate us in place.
More recently, after one of countless days spent paddling with friends on the Genesee River, I saw the gorge at Letchworth Park in the evening light of a warm fall day and thought, why haven't I ever painted this? So I made a big drawing board, 4 x 4 feet, and took it to the park to do some drawing. While wrestling it through the brush to the edge of the gorge, I realized that was what I want to bring to my work- the tactile experience of being outside, even beyond the visual.
There has been much said lately about the negative impact of our distance from the natural world. My most recent work is an attempt to reverse that, by bringing some of the that experience in to people, as a reminder of the importance of nature in our lives. Years ago Thomas Moran's drawings and paintings of Yellowstone were instrumental in convincing congress to establish the National Park system. Much of my most recent thinking has evolved over the last few summers, over several weeks spent in Yellowstone. Once you move away from the road-bound crowds, the peace necessary to hear the whisper of the natural world is still there.
I owe thanks to many people. Cynthia Hawkins, Director of Galleries here at the College at Geneseo has given me this opportunity to exhibit, as well as a timely first meeting which helped me think more boldly. My tie to Geneseo has an earlier start, however, where I enrolled as transfer business student in 1979 (I think), then found myself spending more and more time within the Art Department with professors Richard Beale, Daniel Fink, Gordon Miller, Rosemary Teres and Jay Arnold. Richard Beale continued to be influential after graduation through a later apprenticeship. Kathryn Gallant kicked the wedge out from my personal inhibitions on showing my work. My old friend Mike Barnard is up for any adventure, as well as having made the beautiful new moldings I needed for the recent paintings. And the great folks at Rochester Picture Framing jump through hoops for me at a moments notice, not just for this show, but for the last ten years or more.
My Folks, Richard F. and Jeanne Harrington, have been a constant source of encouragement and support, from birth til this moment. My children, Emily, Elizabeth and Todd, bring me unending happiness, pride and grey hair. And my wife, buddy and best friend, Darby Knox, is unflagging in her love for me, and patience for the disruption I am. My pups, Molly and Finn keep me company, and help me hear what I think is important.
And for my brother Todd. Every day.
RICHARD C. HARRINGTON
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