Manifest Destiny

Manifest Destiny, oil on canvas, 60x30in, © Jean Wilkey
Manifest Destiny, oil on canvas, 60x30in, © Jean Wilkey

Manifest Destiny is one of the paintings in my current show. It continues the theme of looking at our relationship with and connection to nature. Manifest destiny was a 19th century belief in the destiny of settlers to expand westward across the United States, and remake the land and culture. It served to justify, as a moral imperative, both the expansion and the domination of nature. Of course it was way more complex and far-reaching, but one aspect that interests me is that somehow everywhere we expand to, we leave in our wake a lot of things that don’t really belong.

Where I live in the high desert, only the hardiest of plants survive the extreme temperature range between winter and summer. Yet all around us, you see people use non-native ornamental plants, and sometimes tropical plants, in their landscaping.

This painting depicts an ornamental palm tree (which doesn’t like our below freezing winter temps) with the high desert landscape behind. The lovely oranges of its trunk, dipping in and out of shadow, contrast with the greens of the palm fronds. The complementary colors of the sky and trunk announce it’s presence.

It’s painted in a sort of monumental pose, front and center, so that it cannot be ignored. It’s proud conviction that it belongs here is showing.

This is the largest work I’ve painted in a while. 60×30 inches. It’s a human scale. At that scale, in my mind, it becomes a stand-in for people.

You can see it at The Gallery at Big Picture through the end of the month. (311 N Main, Las Cruces, N

Of **course** I forgot to take pics at the show opening. I was having too much fun. It was like a big party with many friends I hadn’t seen in a while and lots of new ones.

But if you want to see the show and don’t live nearby, this not-very-good video will give you an idea of what it looks like. Which is your favorite?

Intersections – The Gallery at Big Picture, 311 N Main, Las Cruces, NM