Constructed Landscape: New Paintings / by Jason Cytacki

I present three new paintings in my constructed landscape series.  Below find the three new images as well as an artist statement that helps clarify my interest in the western landscape as well as my methodology of constructing dioramas:

Bear Lake, Oil on Panel, 24" x 18" 2013
Colorful Colorado, Oil on Panel, 18" x 24" 2013
 Weminuche,Oil on Panel, 36" x 48" 2013

Stemming from my interest in Western art is the tension between its representation as both myth and reality, reflected in its often-ambiguous relationship with authenticity.   While historically paintings of the American have claimed historical fidelity, they often feature many “improvements” fabricated by the artists including overtly theatrical lighting, adjustments to spatial relationships and the kind of things required to create a sublime image of the Western frontier suitable to satisfy their audience’s appetite back east.  The use of realism in these works authenticates that image of the West as the ‘real’ west.  By seeing the cracks in the cowboy’s face and the creases of the saddle, one finds the evidence to support the mythology.

In my paintings, I attempt to turn these strategies on their heads, utilizing realism for a much different goal.  By constructing miniature dioramas of western landscape out of cardboard and then meticulously rendering the minute details in oil paint I aim to subtly subvert the hallmarks of this genre.  By detailing even the creases and corrugation of the cardboard, I instead highlight the fabricated nature of these culturally constructed images, calling their ‘authenticity’ into question.

In addition, I employ the language of dioramas as a metaphor for our perception of the utopian western landscape. The idea of a diorama captures the essence of the divide between the imagined West and the actual West. Much like the grand picturesque landscape, a diorama was designed not to actually deceive the viewer so much as to offer a compelling substitute for the real world. With the mythological West, a certain degree of editing and omission occurs in order to portray a specific romanticized perspective, similarly, the diorama, too, shows a preference for the idealized image over a practical reality.  My dioramas do not attempt to create a seamless illusion, rather they emphasize and expose the artifice of the image, challenging the viewers perceptions about the West.