3.5” x 4.25”—
for real, “Tama Skyline” (1993) by Nancy Friese is 18” x 15”.
But I’ve got only the Pepper Gallery postcard from Friese’s 1994 show Far & Near. A tack-hole in the sky—what corkboard?
Off-center a cottonwood tree, its trunk lit with pink and orange (where the sun hits)—its trunk leans right, branches pull left; the tree’s leaves make a right triangle of sky, blue and blush. A tree with branches like the arms of an exploding firework in the low foreground.
Tama is a city in Iowa. Google search “Tama Skyline” images and most are of downtown Tama. The image that most resembles Friese’s “Tama Skyline” is a photograph of Eileen Crone’s home after the fire that “destroyed her home and all of her belongings on Christmas Day.” Where the cottonwood leans in Friese’s painting stands a brick chimney. Crone is stoic: “We have kids that are good carpenters and they’ll help us get something back up.”
In what book did I keep another Pepper Gallery postcard with a Friese tree on it? A tree painted at the hour before it’s night when the sky is dark blue and the leaves are black?
Friese says, “…and since I don’t go to isolated areas, I go to areas that are fringes of preserved spaces or easy access spaces I am out there [painting] in public. It’s public art. The result isn’t public art but that’s, that’s an interesting way of thinking about contemporary landscape painting.”
If I sit in my backyard and look up at the oak that grows in my neighbor’s yard I see only sky and tree. I’m still in a city. My view of the oak is a fringe. Friese’s trees grow not far from highways and power stations. A road runs nearly the whole length of Friese’s 12” x 96” oil on linen “Through the Groves and Fields” (2005). “Spring Arbor” (2017) is horizontally split by a high fence. Her landscapes are not national parks or golden valleys but are my landscapes: the green between east and westbound traffic on route 2, coastal marshes alongside route 95, the copse behind box stores, the chain-link fenced-in yard. The vernal pond and the junked car is ugly or beautiful.