Tone: A Critique of the Final Frontier

In painting, tone alludes to the relative lightness or darkness of color. In the humanities, tone also refers to the mood implied by how a work makes the spectator, listener, or reader feel. The tone of this gallery elicits mood through the relation of lightness and darkness. Presenting paintings by five artists, the tone generated in this gallery speaks to the critique of the final frontier as the western landscape.

This gallery explores how artists use tone to evoke the sublime and picturesque to elicit and respond to social and environmental issues through landscape painting. The tone of this gallery is designed to evoke a sense of discomfort. The oversize canvases in relation to the small scale of the space enclose upon the viewer. The muddled tones of brown soil, the looming yellow cast of skies, the dark depths between trees, and the discarded junkyard objects combine a variety of subjects and artistic renderings that evoke a similar unsettling sensation through their spectacle. Consider the urban bright neon lights depicted in David Maes Gallegos’ Flamingo in relation to the dark vast soil of Louis Seigriest’s Cimarron Canyon, what sensations do you feel? Despite the visual differences in these works, they both evoke a similar sensation when viewed together. 

These sensations and themes draw forth a critique of western expansion. Collectively, these works question the exploitative relationship between resources, land, and humanity through the shaping of the West and its identity. This identity–intrinsically tied with nature and landscape as exemplified in earlier renderings by William Keith–evolved through the 20th century as wars, depressions, industrialization, and political governing shifted. Artists responded through the landscape to critique and draw attention to these experiences

As you explore this gallery, think about how each work adapts the sublime in relation to the picturesque to stir sensations. What do you see that elicits these unsettling sensations? Are the subjects tied to perceived nature or made objects? If so, does this change how you experience the work? 

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All images are subject to the copyright of Saint Mary's College Museum of Art Permanent Collection