Robert Fifield
For the last decade my work has focused on how we as humans give and take significance from our external world. This research in signification has made subjects of various landscape forms, such as, untouched wilderness spaces, manicured city parks, gardens, the landscapes of interstate medians, expanses of sky, or in this recent body of work pivot irrigation. Unlike previous bodies of painting the Pivot work abstracts landscape from a vertical, horizon-less position. This viewing angle of landscape is relatively new to humans, and only available to us through great assistance, whether a commercial flight, or conjuring satellite images on our phones.

Since the 15th to 18th centuries of world exploration, and the current public accessibility of satellite imagery of the surface of the Earth, geographic fantasy and myth are certainly not as free as they once were. While the complete mapping of the Earth may have put to bed any hope of finding the Biblical Garden of Eden or a quick sailing route from Spain to China, it has given new tangibility to a very powerful human fantasy: omniscience.

Throughout history humans have sought a vantage point from which to obtain omniscience. It was hoped that in this omniscient geographic view of earth mystic truths would reveal themselves to the privileged spectator. By climbing to the top of Mount Haemus King Philip of Macedon hoped to find just such a view. By seeing both the Aegean and the Adriatic seas King Philip could be afforded a vision suited for his royal eyes. Whether or not King Phillip could actually see both seas was not as important as his claim that he did. This single god-like vision is a clear metaphor for Phillip’s role as King.

In the Gospel of Matthew there is a description of a terrestrial platform that certainly grants one a more grand vision than a panoramic postcard photograph. This description occurs in the third temptation of Christ, during his forty-day fast, where “Again, the Devil took him [Christ] to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. ‘All this I will give you.’” According to Christian teaching Christ was simultaneously God and man, so it could be said that Christ had the physical eyes and experiences of a man and the omniscient understanding of God.

Science and world exploration have not quenched the human thirst for the coexistence on Earth of the natural and the supernatural. As millions of Americans subscribe to satellite-imaging computer programs such as GoogleEarth, it is entirely possible to suggest that satellite imagery has only heightened our culture’s interest in and obtainability of geographic omniscience. Dragons and demons may no longer live in unnavicable landscapes, but for some people these places remain the domain of Sasquatch. Fantasy does not disappear, it merely changes with the addition of new information.