I am certainly no artist (which was confirmed by a teacher who once described my images as “lacking any charge”), but I do love this image. On my last day in Nepal, we walked for miles up through the mountains to get to Kopan, a beautiful monastery overlooking all of Kathmandu. When we arrived, we couldn’t believe how far away our journey’s starting point was in the distance. As we traversed up the winding roads, each twist and turn revealed a magnificent landscape of lush mountains, deep valleys, misty air, and clusters of farmers. In traditional sublime paintings, the immensity of nature practically swallows the figures in the foreground. This awe-inspiring quality of nature is purposely exaggerated to lend an emotional, sometimes spiritual notion of greatness and beauty to the viewer. I am so happy I was able to capture what I experienced on that wonderful day. It allows me to continue visiting that magical place from a distance, even from my little office here in Manhattan overlooking Central Park.
The farmers worked diligently under the harsh, Nepalese sun, barely noticing us as we walked by. I remembered the peasant character studies Vincent van Gogh did of working class people: farmers, fishers, sowers, weavers, etc. As a true artist, he spent an immense amount of time living and working with them in order to genuinely experience what they endured during their long, hard days. His ultimate goal was to capture their spirit and portray them through his own personal expression, rather then the accuracy or technique of the work. This is essentially how Post-Impressionism came to be. It started with a rejection of proposed guidelines for painting and ended in bold, daring brushstrokes bursting with color. Vincent van Gogh was on an immense, spiritual quest and felt this way of painting was the best way to truly dignify the workers. He wrote in a letter to his brother, Theo: “Instead of trying to render exactly what I have before my eyes, I use color more arbitrarily in order to express myself forcefully.” You go, van Gogh! I think we can all agree his work is full of that “charge” my teacher was looking for. What an inspiration.