Easel Photographs (1977-81)
Created when Van Alstine was in the western US, the “Easel Landscape Series'” was a site-specific installation project designed to question and examine the accepted convention of frame as “signal” or “sanctioning” device for art. The series takes clues from many sources, including the "on site" plein air paintings of Claude Monet such as the "Haystack" or "Cathedral" series, and surrealist Rene Magritte in paintings like The Promenades of Euclid where he cleverly presents the viewer with the curious image of a painted canvas on an easel simultaneously in front of a window while acting as a window.
"Van Alstines photos deal with multiple issues germane to the intersection of photography and landscape", Nicholas Capasso curator at the deCordova Museum wrote in Bones of the Earth; Spirit of the Land, “Their multiple nested frames (easel, photograph, paper mat, and frame) play tricks with perspective cues and collapse or telescope perceived distances, calling into how the eye and mind perceptually process the landscape via photography.”
The potographs, created before the the days of "Photoshop" and easy digital photo manipulation, were shot with a medium format camera. Exhibited at New York 's Marlborough Gallery in 1981 in the exhibit "Color Photography: Five new Views", ARTFORUM Magazine wrote: "Color photography's relationship to the other arts is investigated in John Van Alstine's landscapes. His scenes of majestic Mountains and rolling plains are of the sort made famous not only by the "nature is beautiful" school of black and white photography but also by the plein air school of landscape painting. In Amish Easel Landscape, 1979 and Easel Landscape after Monet, 1980, the landscape contains a steel easel which frames a detail from the same scene. The juxtaposition of "the photograph within the photograph" and "the photograph" gives the image a biting conceptual edge that draws attention to the distinctive ways of seeing that photography and painting each offer". October issue 1981 with photo.
The work was also exhibited at the Henri Gallery, Washington DC in 1980 and was reviewed by Paul Richard of the Washington Post.
see easel photo images