Grand Canyon Revisited

Thomas Helmick

Gallery Three



"My first visit to the Grand Canyon was in late winter 1978, and I was 26, wide-eyed and adventurous. The South Rim Grand Canyon Village consisted of just one hotel, one gift shop, one RV/camping area, and the park ranger’s office. I spent three days in the canyon, and it indeed lives up to its name, the majesty and grandeur is beyond description. Of course, this was before the ubiquitous cell phone, and I was without a camera, but I was never without my sketchbook. At every turn, at every switchback, I had to stop. I had to capture as best I could all that was before me. I started my first Grand Canyon Series some years later; those sketches were subjects to countless paintings and pastels. I went through those same sketches several times, and as the memory of the canyon faded, I felt the series exhausted.

In 2016, I revisited the canyon. I must say I was dismayed at the vast over-development of the Grand Canyon Village and the mass of tourists. But the majesty and grandeur stands undiminished. I felt compelled to start my Grand Canyon Series II.

The work shown here is part of my continued study of the landscape. I start with the representational drawing, as described above, which becomes the elemental composition for a painting or a pastel. Then, using color and line, I work to eliminate the representational to freely express the essential nature of that landscape. In my early work, I pushed the elimination of the representational to the point of no recognizable references. Now, in the more recent work, I find I’m not pushing quite so far and leaving more to recognize. This push is finding that edge between representational figurative work and pure abstraction

In this exhibition, there are pieces from both series, and they are part of my attempts to capture that majesty and grandeur that is the Grand Canyon."