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  • Writer's pictureAmy Felder

Wilderness is not a luxury

“Wilderness is not a luxury but a necessity of human spirit, as vital to our lives as bread and water.” [1]  

Art has played an important role in the development of our National Park System. Thomas Moran’s work provided the first personal observations of Yellowstone, which influenced Congress’s decision to establish Yellowstone as the first national park in 1872. Albert Bierstadt’s landscape paintings also spurred interest in preserving national lands. Ansel Adams helped expand the National Park system through his persistent advocacy and photography. Continuing in the tradition of American Western art that calls for the protection and preservation of public lands, my work began with me capturing the beauty of nature to help others see the importance of protecting, preserving, and conserving natural areas.

In 2016, I traveled to Belgium and saw the oil painting that heralded in the Renaissance - The Ghent Altarpiece. After seeing it, I had a strong desire to create a triptych. As a Christian, I have always been interested in religious works of art and the deference they command. The triptych shows up in my work for the first time with my painting Grand Teton. Like the American Sublime landscape painters before me, I created an innocent and naive vision of national parks, an idyllic landscape painting of Grand Teton National Park. Completely void of any evidence of humans, the triptych elevates Grand Teton to a sacred place and suggests an altar piece that commands a holy reverence. 

I created this piece in 2017 when Bear’s Ears National Monument was dramatically reduced in size. This set a dangerous precedent that protected land is not necessarily protected. As a result, it seemed critical for me to create paintings that may lead to change. We had recently visited Grand Teton and I thought by depicting the majestic beauty of the mountains I may inspire interest in preservation of public lands. How is wilderness vital to your life?

Image credit: Grand Teton, 2017. Oil on canvas (three panels) 30x20 inches, 30x24 inches, 30x20 inches

[1] Abbey, E. (1988). Desert solitaire. Tucson: University of Arizona Press.

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