Neo-Nostaglia, National Parks and Monuments
A Sandstone 'Wave' in the White Pocket Area of the Vermillion Cliffs National Monument
Vanishing Present/Vanishing Presence
Representing the vanishing present of my own perspective and the fleeting nature of my experiences, these digital paintings capture the vanishing presence of geological formations in several U.S. National Parks, as they struggle against the effects of climate change, threats of industrialized exploitation and commercial over-development. Presently, an experience within any national park can change relatively quickly as external, non-natural forces impact the landscape in a short span of years rather than over centuries. This intersection of my vanishing present and the parks’ vanishing presence forms the basis for my own sense of neo-nostalgia – as my attempts to appreciate and capture various national parks through my transient experience in them.
Conventionally, when one evokes the concept of nostalgia, it is a retrograde longing and romanticism for objects, values and attitudes of many decades or even centuries long past. Visually, images of these objects, values and experiences tend to be rendered in sepia and muted color tones. However, in visiting national parks such as Bryce Canyon National Park, Rocky Mountain National Park, the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone National Park, my experiences and memories are much more vivid.
For me, neo-nostalgia is the recognition of the fleeting present, steeped in vibrant, almost hallucinogenic saturated visual tones that I present in these digital watercolors. This approach enhances the inherent drama of nature’s monuments, in both perseverance and uncertainty. These pieces are my responses to the awe of nature’s beauty, fears about the destruction of that beauty, and the hope that this destruction from outside human forces can be stopped and reversed in some manner.
As an avid photographer, I have been capturing photographic images of my travels to U.S. national parks and monuments for the past ten years. Drawing on my previous experience as an amateur photographer and videographer, my interest in using photography as the basis for a business in digital art has evolved since early 2014. This interest led to the creation of the business On and Off the Road: Creative Images by Rodney Buxton. Having previously taken a basic Photoshop class to improve the quality of my travel photographs, I, at the start of 2014, began to utilize many of the more advanced techniques in the program to creatively manipulate my images for expressionistic and dreamlike purposes to create my vision of neo-nostalgia. What previously had been strict photographs are now painterly images growing out of my emotional reactions to travel sites that I now transform into vivid dreamscape images.
On and Off the Road: Creative Images by Rodney Buxton is located in Denver, Colorado. As one important third of the business location, here is where I transform my photographs into digital paintings. In addition, ‘roads’ and the many destinations to which they lead are the foundational ‘moveable’ locations of the company that are the inspiration for my creative photography.
While I have a backlog of photographic images from previous trips, I look forward to future travel as inspiration for my growing portfolio of creative photography and digital painting, both on and off the road. Recent trips have included visits to Arches National Park, both the Island in the Sky and Needles District of Canyonlands National Park, Bears Ears and Natural Bridges National Monuments, the Vermillion Cliffs National Monument, the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon National Park, the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument and Capitol Reef National Park.
I am presently an associate professor in Media, Film and Journalism Studies at the University of Denver, having taught film and television studies and production for twenty-five years.