Our Public Lands at Risk
Our Public Lands are at risk of disappearing. Over the past handful of years a number of legislative proposals have come up in Congress aimed at releasing public lands from federal control, including national parks, forests, and monuments. Many states lack the resources needed to manage these lands, and would likely have no choice but to sell them off. If these measures are implemented, we could lose access to one of the greatest national treasures we have, the land itself.
Learn more about this issue from The Wilderness Society.
Why Fading Lands?
Fading Lands is intended to create a rise in awareness and actions to protect our public lands through a series of landscape paintings and documentary videos addressing the issue.
The idea behind Fading Lands was inspired by a desire to do anything I could to help prevent the loss of our public lands. When this desire grew into motivation to act, I had just moved back to the US after several years abroad. At first it seemed as though there was little I could do. I was not a policy maker nor politician. I was not a public figure. I was not much of a protester either, but I did have my artwork. I had been contemplating a way to apply this artwork to an environmental cause for years, and this issue seemed like the perfect match for the paintings.
So I headed out to begin the groundwork on Fading Lands late last summer. I started by looking up groups that were dedicated to this cause and came across The Wilderness Society, an non-profit organization founded in 1935. They seemed to provide the most information on this issue and had been dedicated to our public lands for decades. Using their resources as my guide, I headed out to four locations in Colorado that were highlighted on their website at the time, in order to create a series of landscapes that could help raise money for their organization. The hope was that this series of paintings could serve as a catalyst for raising resources, awareness and actions for this pressing issue.
As I made brief visits to each location in order to collect images for the series and footage for this Kickstarter campaign, it dawned on me that a short documentary video for each state highlighting the issues they faced could have a greater impact on awareness and actions than the paintings themselves. Since I would need to return to each location to fully depict the landscape and conduct a comprehensive study on its condition anyway, creating a complete video for the project seemed like the natural thing to do. The connecting task of completing the series would serve as excellent theme for the videos, while more importantly showcasing the changing legal status of the lands and the efforts being made to protect them.
And so Fading Lands began. Work on the project has experienced a few interruptions over the past year, including a return visit to Asia and a move to Colorado to establish a new life in the US, as well as a handful of work obligations. Despite this, the issue has grown into a much greater threat in recent months, leading to my persistence to launch the Kickstarter campaign. This campaign can potentially allow me to complete the series and documentary videos, which will hopefully have an impact on the protection of these lands.
With each pledge made I will be sending a personal postcard thanking you for your support along with the reward of your choice. The rewards chosen are just the initial ideas associated with this project, and several other items to be offered are in the works, so keep an eye out for new rewards being added to the project.
If there's something you would like to see in the rewards, feel free to reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org
Creating the Artwork
This style of painting involves a certain process that has evolved over time, and I look forward to sharing its continued evolution. When I initially started painting in this style, I was using photos that I had taken in Canada and Alaska and then depicting them with acrylic paint on canvas. As my passion for the style grew, I started bringing a pad of drawing paper with me on my hikes and climbing trips, in order to sketch the views that inspired me to paint. I also took photographs to use as a color reference, although the colors I end up using are typically brightened exaggerations of the scenery. The reason for this is to emphasis the actual experience of being in that location, or at least my impression of it. When I remember the places that I visit, it is often with a more vibrant and colorful image in my mind than what comes out in my photographs, and I do my best to capture this in the paintings.
Once I have selected a sketch to work with I often apply colored pencil to test contrasting colors and choose my pallet. I then transfer the sketch to canvas and begin a layering process with acrylic paint. This phase usually takes a considerable amount of time, as each layer needs to dry before applying the next layer. Due to this, I will often work on two to three paintings at a time, hopping back and forth as layers dry. As the overall painting process takes so much time to complete, I have only worked in a studio up to this point, with only one attempt at plein air painting. However, with a well-planned painting I do think plein air could be possible, and would like to try it on a few smaller paintings in this series.
The Lands to Visit
As mentioned in the video, Colorado is only the first state in this series of paintings. Although I am only visiting five locations at this time there are still a handful of public lands within the state that are under threat and with additional funding and time others may be added to the project.
Browns Canyon was designated as a National Monument in 2015 and covers nearly 34 square miles of U.S. Bureau of Land Management land and national forests along the Arkansas River near Salida, Colorado. Despite this designation, much of that land is currently under review by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, in what appears to be “massive federal land grab.”
The Grand Mesa National Forest in Western Colorado covers over 540 square miles and was the third forest reserve created in the United States. As a national forest, Grand Mesa would be relinquished from federal control under several legislation proposals. While there is currently some industrial development within Grand Mesa, large portions of the forest could be lost to developers if these policies are adopted.
The Roan Plateau
The Roan Plateau is managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and in addition to its high ridges, deep valleys, and abundant wildlife, it also contains large deposits of oil and natural gas. While there are existing wells producing natural gas adjacent to the plateau, legislation proposals continue to target this area for drilling exploration.
After my initial visit to the Roan Plateau, the BLM released a plan for protecting this area in November 2016, ranking the top of the plateau as “one of the most biologically rich places in Colorado.” This visit is still imperative to encourage continued support for it's protection.
The Vermillion Basin
The Vermillion Basin is located in the northwest corner of Colorado and is managed by the Bureau of Land Management. The basin is currently a Citizen-Proposed Wilderness Study Area, and hosts several rare species and collection of plants. Its unique ecosystems and stunning landscape is made up of colorful rolling hills and limestone cliffs. The area is also home to a magnificent collection of petroglyphs created by early inhabitants passing through the area.
Currently, a small portion of the northern part of the basin is covered by oil and gas leases, and the entire basin could be opened to exploration if released from federal control, despite being identified as a Fragile Soils Management Area by the BLM.
Canyons of the Ancients National Monuments
Canyons of the Ancients National Monument was designated in 2000 by President Bill Clinton and is part of the National Landscape Conservation System. Despite this, it is currently one of 27 national monuments under review by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke as part of an executive order signed by President Donald Trump in April 2017. Depending on the outcome of the review, much of this area could lose federal protection.
The Colorado Plateau and Other States
The Wilderness Society describes the Colorado Plateau as “one of the last remnants of the Wild West,” and stretches across parts of Colorado, Utah, Arizona and New Mexico. The plateau is of rich geological significance and natural beauty. It is home to some of the most visited national parks and monuments in the country, and will serve as the starting point for part two in this series of paintings, Fading Lands: Utah, which will begin in either late 2017 or early 2018.
The funding goal of $3,000 is simply the bare minimum to keep this project alive, and it will likely cost much more than this to complete it at its full potential. However, there are numerous ways to cut costs, including shorter visits to each location, fewer locations to visit, less expensive painting supplies, less paintings in the series, and shorter documentary videos with less research and explanation.
Once the campaign is complete, the following month will be dedicated to creating and delivering the rewards, with the exception of the custom paintings and documentary videos. A three-to-four month process will follow to visit each location and complete the series of artwork.
Each location will be explored and documented through sketches, photographs, documentary videos, and some plein art painting whenever possible. Two weeks will be dedicated to thoroughly exploring the location and learning the latest news on its status and condition, followed by two weeks of painting. Updates to social media accounts will be made along the way to allow you to keep track of the progress.
I intend to complete five to ten paintings for each location visited in the style and technique that I developed over the past decade. The paintings will be completed in a variety of sizes ranging from 12 x 24 inches to 30 x 40 inches. Since I have mostly worked with acrylic paint on canvas in the past, the majority of the paintings will follow this medium, but oil and watercolor paintings may be included as well.
Towards the end of the third month and into the fourth month the project will be wrapping up, and during this phase we will be completing the videos documenting the entire process, as well as finalizing and delivering any rewards not yet sent to our backers. At this time we will also be engaging galleries for the public launch of Fading Lands: Colorado, with 50 percent of the sales (not including gallery fees) donated to The Wilderness Society.
In addition to this, we will also be pursuing public venues to show the documentary videos and a handful of the paintings, in order to engage the public and raise awareness. These venues may include community centers throughout the State of Colorado, educational institutions, environmental conferences, outdoors and art events, as well as any other public opportunities that may arise, all with the purpose of reaching and informing as many people as possible about this pressing issue.
About the Artist
These paintings were started ten years ago while I was working as a land-use planner in Juneau, Alaska, as part of a portfolio of artwork for graduate applications to study architecture and urban design. While I had been prepped to study art during my high school years, I decided not to pursue this due to uncertain career paths, the possibility of becoming a starving artist, and the desire to avoid too much artistic influence. I chose to study urban planning instead, with the intention of making our cities more socially vibrant and environmentally sustainable. I interned with the City of St. Louis, and received a job offer as a planner in Juneau in the summer of 2006.
With as much as I enjoyed urban planning, my position lacked the creative outlet that I was craving. So I began working on a portfolio of artwork for graduate school applications, with the hope that architecture and urban design could satisfy my creative needs. I used the landscapes of Southeast Alaska and Northern Canada as my inspiration, however it was soon clear that I would not complete the portfolio in time for the upcoming deadlines. As the Alaskan winter gave way to seasonal depression, I decided to leave my job in order to teach in South Korea, where I would have the time and resources needed to finish the applications.
I ended up living and working in Busan, where I was able to complete my portfolio and successfully apply to graduate programs. My initial time in Korea did more than simply allow me to make my way to graduate school. It also triggered a sense of curiosity, exploration, and fascination with Asia that would play a critical role in my life for the next several years. Once I was accepted to graduate school I left Busan and backpacked through Japan, while also spending a part of the summer in Hong Kong before returning to the United States to study at Washington University.
My graduate studies in architecture were disappointing to say the least. The dual masters program that I initially enrolled in was set to have semesters in Helsinki, Barcelona, and Buenos Aires, with a final urban design practicum at Columbia University in New York, where I would complete the program. By the time I started the program these options were greatly reduced, while the practicum at Columbia was replaced with an urban design project in San Diego and Tijuana. In addition to this, my first semester coincided with the economic collapse of 2008, and the idea of going into so much student debt with very poor job prospects did not sit well. Most importantly, I ended up not really liking architecture. The demanding design assignments often seemed arbitrary and meaningless to me, and as a former city planner, my concerns with physical context and environmental impact felt neglected in the program. I also missed my artwork, and concluded that I would rather paint landscapes than design buildings. I decided to defer a year in the program and return to Japan, a country that had captured my imagination the previous spring, with the intentions of pursuing a career as an artist.
In 2009 I returned to Japan, initially to Tokyo, but quickly relocated to Osaka. There I worked a handful of odd jobs, including some bartending, teaching at an international kindergarten, and a little involvement in the Osaka street art scene, all while trying to pursue work on my landscape paintings.
In many ways this was one of the most enjoyable years of my life because for the first time I did not have any immediate goals that needed to be fulfilled. I spent countless nights out with friends and allowed my curiosity to guide me as I explored new places, concepts, and possibilities. Despite this, by the end of the year I realized that my openness and curiosity did not conform well in Japanese society, and my prospects as an artist in Osaka were limited due to the high cost of living, limited time to work on my art, and the tremendous amount of competition in the Japanese art world.
So, at the end of 2009, I decided to step away from my artwork for a while and pursue a new career path. I spent the spring of 2010 taking prerequisite courses in media production but quickly realized that I had basically learned what I needed to know to produce media, and so transitioned to a graduate program in business and international relations in Bangkok, Thailand.
I quickly fell in love with Thailand, its culture and people, the international community, and the wonderful group of friends that I met there. After being born in Massachusetts and then moving to the Midwest when my parents where divorced, I never really felt like I belonged to any of the places where I lived. In Thailand, for the first time in my life, I felt like I had a home.
Through my graduate program in Bangkok I was accepted as an intern with the United Nations, working on the urban planning section of a Low Carbon Green Growth Roadmap for Asia and the Pacific with UN ESCAP. I stayed on to help produce a short video for the publication, and later helped out with a proposal with UNOPS for Resilient Infrastructure for the Republic of the Philippines. I also helped out with media production for various non-profits, including Wedu, an organization dedicated to investment in women’s leadership. At the same time, I met a handful of friends working in the film industry, and occasionally worked on the sets of various film, television, and commercial productions. I also started attending events in the emerging art scene in Bangkok, with the intention of one day getting back to my artwork.
Towards the end of my graduate program, with the desire to help improve the environment of my newly adopted home, I began work on The Ficus Rooftop Initiative, a social enterprise dedicated to green rooftops in Bangkok and other Asian cities. While the project initially gained positive momentum, the 2014 military coup put its future on hold. At this point I had also recently started living with my would be wife, and our relationship become the most important aspect of my life.
Over the following two years I worked in education and corporate services in Bangkok while waiting for conditions to improve for my social enterprise. Towards the end of 2015 my wife and I decided that the political and economic conditions in Thailand were not going to get any better for us, so we made plans to leave the country in May of 2016.
As my wife and I began the painstaking process of getting her US spousal visa in the summer of 2016, and while I explored new career options in America, I learned of the legislative attacks being made on our public lands. Feeling a strong sense to do something about it, I quickly began to look for ways to help the situation. At the same time, my wife was finally able to witness my landscape paintings, and with her encouragement, I came up with the plan to visit a handful of these locations in Colorado to document the areas and begin a new series of paintings. So in August of 2016, my wife headed back to Seoul to stay with her family while awaiting her visa approval, a process that was suppose to take five to seven months, but is still going on to this day. I headed to Colorado to take the first steps to making Fading Lands a reality, to establish our new life in America, and to contribute to the benefit of our environment and our society in any way possible.
A Special Thanks
I would like send out a special thank you to Roald Simonson, Brian Snyder, Sean Holveck, and all of the people who helped review the project and make this campaign possible. Above all else, I'd like to thank my wife, Kyuran, for inspiring me, and for encouraging me to complete this project despite so many difficult situations along the way.
Risks and challenges
The greatest obstacle in this project is time.
If the project can exceed its goal then part one will surely be a success and its potential to make an impact on the status of our public lands would be within reach. If not, the project can still eventually be completed, but at a much slower pace, and by then it could be too late.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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