Forge Ahead painting
Medium: oil on canvas (triptych)
Surface: Canvas, unframed with painted edges
Width: 48 inches
Height: 36 inches
Depth: 1 inch
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©2018 Paul Richmond
“You are your own Promised Land, your own new frontier.” - Julia Cameron
Promiseland is an allegorical theme-park that the figures in this series are seeking, discovering, or remembering. Its physical properties vary because Promiseland exists only in the subjects’ imaginations, but its significance is rooted in their common efforts to chart a path through obstacles in order to reach their destination.
The theme-park metaphor was inspired by a childhood memory of my family’s Disney World vacation. My dad and I had a memorable experience on the ride Peter Pan’s Flight. We were flying over Neverland in a magical ship until a technical malfunction brought us to a screeching halt. Sparks flew, lights flickered, and giant ladders were set up so we could climb down to safety. It was a jarring moment in which fantasy came crashing into reality. Promiseland builds upon that idea with surrealistic scenarios blending reality and abstraction. The figures are rendered in detail while traveling through environments that dissolve into gestural brushstrokes and fragmented prismatic shapes. Often a hint of Promiseland appears in the background, raising more questions than it answers.
Allusions to the paintings of Albert Bierstadt are another motif that weave throughout this series. His lavish frontier paintings marketed the concept of westward expansion to settlers in the nineteenth century, offering them a sweeping promised land of their own. My work is an exploration of what happens when the long sought out destination begins to manifest. Does reality measure up to expectation, and what is the impact on the traveler?
My husband and I moved to California two years ago after having lived our entire lives in Ohio, so the themes of travel and transformation are personal. Our adventure came with many incredible discoveries, like breathtaking vistas I had only seen in photographs (and Bierstadt paintings), and a thriving community of wonderful new artist friends. But there have also been challenges. Adventures are usually more complicated than they seem at the outset, and ours has included moments of sadness, loss, and disillusion. Through the process of painting Promiseland and populating it with friends and family, I am attempting to locate myself within my own journey as I recognize that the places I’ve been and the people I’ve encountered are integral parts of who I am and how I approach the roads ahead.