Lands of the West

Lands of the West: Identifying with the Art of Place (excerpt)

P.A. Nisbet is among contemporary artists who are true to the spirit of Thoreau's observations of the natural world.

Published online courtesy Western Art Collector, March, 2012

In August 1846 Henry David Thoreau entered the Maine woods to ascend Mount Katahdin, the second-highest peak in New England, which at the time was relatively untouched.  He made the tred to "Ktaadn" (meaning "highest land") late in his career, intending to simply accompany a relative in the lumber trade - but instead he found himself enraptured by the natural landscape of the then untamed land.

In what would later become a complete work, The Maine Woods, he proclaimed: "Think of our life in nature - daily to be shown matter to come in contact with it - rocks, trees, wind on our cheeks. The solid earth!  The actual world! The common sense! Contact! Contact!" and asked: "Who are we? Where are we?" (The Maine Woods, Pt. 6).

Although Thoreau's observations were not describing the Western landscape, but rather the Eastern landscape, his connection to nature was, nevertheless, broad and deep.

Who are we? he pondered, and how does the landscape inform our answers?

Perhaps the answer comes while conducting a field study for a painting? Perhaps it comes in the form of a sculpture? Or, perhaps it comes in the form of completing a plein air painting?

While contemporary artists have idividual styles that have much evolved since the contemporary painting styles during the time of Thoreau, the works of artists of our time are still true to the spirit of Thoreau's observations. Perhaps they can in their own way still attempt to answer his probing questions: Who are we? Where are we?

Peter A. Nisbet

"Wanderer." "Curious." "Restless." "Driven." These are all words that P.A. Nisbet would use to describe himself, both as an artist and as an individual.

Without any formal training, his knowledge of art is based solely upon 35 years of direct experience in nature - a relationship he describes as "an enduring love affair."

Drawing his inspiration from those he considers the masters of painting: Turner; Rembrandt; Inness; and Moran; and the art movements spurred by the Luminist and the Tonalist painters, Nisbet's entire adult life has been dedicated to landscape painting.  "I seldom look to work done after the close of the 19th century," he says.  "My purpose as an artist is very simple: It is to witness and celebrate the Creation through paintings that I trust will speak to someone long after I am gone.:"