I love the grim gaunt edges of the rocks,
the great bare backbone of the Earth,
rough brows and heaved up shoulders,
round ribs and knees of the world's skeleton
protruded in lonely places.
From "My Country" by Maynard Dixon
Well known painter, Maynard Dixon, was extolling the virtues of the American Southwest with these lines, but he could just as well have been talking about parts of the Pacific Northwest where I grew up. The photo here was taken along the Yaak River in western Montana, a place where impressive "heaved up shoulders" take the water for a crashing ride. Do I spot vertebrae there?
I ran across this excerpt in The Modern West: American Landscapes 1890-1950. Never knew Dixon was prone to writing poetry but I love this image. I was pretty sure there was a painting somewhere in the book that took this concept of the earth as human body to a somewhat literal level. Indeed, in the chapter on The Dust Bowl Era, I found Alexandre Hogue's Erosions No. 2, Mother Earth Laid Bare, 1938. Made me wonder if Hogue had ever run across that poem or if his inspiration came from somewhere else. I've seen quite a few interpretations of a reclining nude as mountain range, but this is quite something else. Below are three studies that preceded the final version in oil.