The American road is a joyful and meditative place.
To the Art Talk readers raising a skeptical brow with visions of device-distracted, speed limit-agnostic hellions in a pedal-to-the-medal world where even the word “road” is all too readily suffixed with “rage,” the American road can be a joyful and meditative place.
To Portland-based artist Sally Cohen, the road beckons nostalgic implications of wondrous adventure of body and spirit. The road is the source of her artistic inspiration and greatest happiness.
Cohen’s oil painting 80 Acres (30”X40”), Art Talk’s piece of the week, is a glimpse of an unhurried and unrushed life inspired by photographs she takes along the road. The composition of 80 Acres features six farmhouses, like tidy little units of human life, nestled beneath rolling rural hills.
The sloping roofs and warm tones of the farmhouses echo the hills and gradating sky, creating a perfect harmony between human life and nature. To Cohen, this harmony represents “simplicity and serenity.” The majority of the canvas is sky that deepens and intensifies to a rich blue as the eye moves upwards from the houses.
Within the corners of her canvas, Cohen captures simplicity that stems from her windsheilded inspirations. The farm featured in 80 Acres “fits so perfectly in its environment and landscape,” says the artist.
As she travels along rural roads from Portland to Reno, she photographs roadside vistas and the ranches and farms that nestle into America’s Pacific landscapes. To Cohen, the illusion that these farms house simpler lives is as grand as it is important. Cohen’s paintings keep that illusion alive.
Tailgated by these images of calm harmony, Cohen brings a collection of photographs back to her studio. She does not sketch. She uses these photographs as a guide. She begins a composition with the barest elements and from there, paints the rest. This steers her attention to the individual buildings and their interplay with the landscapes.
Painting comes to Cohen in moments of Zen; “I get into the scene and the colors just come so naturally,” says the artist.
Cohen hopes that the viewer will be able to fill in his or her own experiences and memories into the simplicity of the image; in that way, the viewers’ own countless miles become 80 Acres.
Cohen’s Studio with her muse, Daphne standing by the bookcase