Limitless Landscapes: CMA Staff Voices

The exhibition Into the Seven Jeweled Mountain: An Immersive Experience in the Arlene M. and Arthur S. Holden Textile Gallery (234) reveals how Korean artists have used landscape paintings to create immersive and meditative experiences for viewers for centuries. To further explore the unique qualities of this genre, the museum asked 10 staff members to reflect on an artwork of their choice and questions about the restorative nature of landscapes. Their responses are on view through September 29, 2024, as a series of temporary CMA Staff Voice labels throughout the museum.

On a mobile device, take the “Limitless Landscapes: CMA Staff Voices” tour in the CMA’s ArtLens App for a guide to each artwork.

Jessica Hubbard

Untitled (Plate 36. Vertical and Latitudinal Distribution of Animal Life), Firelei Báez, gallery 229C

Immersion in nature is rejuvenating. I feel a connection to it; in my own artistic practice, nature offers hope. I take cues from my environment and find inspiration at the intersections of art, science, and nature. Firelei Báez also draws inspiration from the beauty and complex patterns of nature, transforming them into something unique. Organic shapes mimic nature as her process allows material to take its own form, create its own life. The colors evoke feelings of energy and vitality, which creates a sense of aliveness. Art is a therapy and healing. Making and engaging with emotionally charged abstract works is a way for me to process emotions, reduce stress, and experience rebuilding.

A headshot of a woman with brown hair, a silver nose ring and a red patterned top.

Jessica Hubbard, Donor Records Manager

Jihad Dennis

Gouise, Joan Mitchell, gallery 227

When I look at this painting, I see nature returning to itself. It’s sublime in a way, eliciting rejuvenation and restoration through the artist’s exploration and application of paint. The piece bursts with movement. The upper frame is congested with greens and vibrant blues. It’s like I’m looking at an aerial point of view, and I’m reminded of topography. I see a dense forest in the middle but then the blues hint at lakes and rivers. When I was a kid, there was a cool forest we would go to all the time with creeks streaming through. This reminds me of the variety of plant life we used to walk through. I hear the trickling of water and ambient noise of the forest. It’s really comforting.

Headshot of a man smiling and wearing glasses, a dark blue cardigan and a light blue button up underneath

Jihad Dennis, Associate Publications Designer

Isabel Kopp

January, Grant Wood, gallery 226B

Nature is my solace. The seasons give us many opportunities to see the world in different manifestations that are each glorious in their own way. This painting speaks to me because I love winter. Viewing it invokes peace. When a really deep snowfall arrives, an utterly different silence embraces the world. That closing down of the world’s noise helps restore my spirit. Looking at this landscape is restorative for me because while the world is blanketed, hushed, and resting under heavy snow, rabbit tracks appear and offer the awareness that life magically continues underground.

Headshot of a smiling woman with grey hair and glasses, wearing an all black top.

Isabel Kopp, Gallery Guard

Connie Williams

The Pink Cloud, Henri-Edmond Cross, gallery 222

I first picked this painting because it’s a popular print sold in the museum store. I understand why because the colors of the cloud, the pinks, blues, and white, can change your mood and in so many ways. I love looking at clouds, finding different shapes in the formations. I love taking photographs of them and will pull my car over just to take a picture. I recently took one of pink clouds and compared it to this work. I captured the same hues, the same pink and white. It makes me very happy knowing that nature can paint a canvas right before our eyes. I’m delighted by the shared experience with anyone looking at the sky at the same time as me enjoying the same vision.

Headshot of a smiling woman with black and grey hear wearing a black sweater with gold circles and bedazzled silver stripes on the collar

Connie Williams, Assistant Museum Store Manager

Jeremy Gutow

Panoramic View of the Alps, Les Dents du Midi, Gustave Courbet, gallery 220

I love being out among the trees, whether I’m in a forest or a backyard grove. I’m excited by landscape paintings with mountains and greenery. When I was in my 30s, I was driving through the Smoky Mountains on vacation. I had never been to the mountains before, and their beauty struck me on a psychic level. Walking through trees is part of my rejuvenation now and I can see myself in this painting exploring the landscape. I might be on the other side of the lake, eating a sandwich, smelling flowers, listening to the birds chirping, and imagining the movie The Sound of Music. I’d feel at home here, relaxed and comfortable while experiencing a deep spiritual connection with the universe.

Headshot of a man with grey hair and a grey bear smiling and wearing a maroon V-neck sweater

Jeremy Gutow, Research Associate

Brook Hale

Point Judith, Rhode Island, Martin Johnson Heade, gallery 206

Being in nature cleanses my spirit and gives me a sense of peace. In this image, the moon shining over the water reminds me of summer evenings from my childhood in Minnesota. I can hear the water lapping against the beach and the rocks. There might be a little breeze, but the water is very calm. Water can be rough some days on the lake, but in the evening, it usually settles down and invites you to look at the stars. Sometimes when I’m in the museum working, I go down to the galleries to clear my head. Knowing that this artist was so inspired by this landscape that he painted it to share with others makes me believe we have so much in common as human beings.

Headshot of a smiling blonde woman wearing a blue sweater and a gold heart shaped necklace

Brook Hale, Philanthropic Advisor

Janet Costantino

Study, North Conway, New Hampshire, David Johnson, gallery 206

I decided about 10 years ago I might like hiking, and it has changed my life. It’s very refreshing and rejuvenating to be outside, seeing and listening to nature. It clears my mind. I’ve hiked in New Hampshire before, and this painting looks spot on for what I’ve seen there. This artwork stands out to me because it’s so realistic. I can almost smell the moss and feel the water spraying. It looks like a snapshot of one of my hikes, like an inviting spot for me. Paintings like this can transport you to another world. It’s remarkable. When I’m at work and I can’t get out into the woods, the next best thing is to look at art and experience what the artist saw.

Headshot of a smiling brunette woman wearing a white top with a grey suit jacket

Janet Costantino, Donor Records Specialist

Diane Cizek

Mount Starr King, Yosemite, Albert Bierstadt, gallery 206

This painting has spoken to me since I started working at the museum in 2007. I like it so much that I purchased a large poster of it, which hangs in my living room. If I were in this painting, the valley would make everything peaceful; all the outside noise would melt away. I would feel secluded, away from the business of the world. I could sit by the stream and listen to the water flow. Whenever I want to re-center myself, I like to be near water. It restores me and rebalances me. I would love to sit in this landscape, and to become part of that space. I have never been to Yosemite, but it’s on my wish list!

Headshot of a smiling woman with grey hair and glasses wearing a pink and brown floral shirt with a black cardigan

Diane Cizek, School Programs Coordinator

Athene Goodman

Early Morning after a Storm at Sea, Winslow Homer, gallery 208

Nature is restorative. Whenever I’m feeling out of balance or disconnected, I go into nature for a walk. Then I feel like myself again. Even when I can’t be in nature physically, looking at images can make me feel like I’m transported. I like this painting because of the light dancing over the water, and the big wave crashing into the surf. I’ve been to beaches like that. It’s like I can almost feel the spray of the water on my face, hear the waves crashing against the rocks, and smell the salt. This is a perfect representation of a morning after a storm. It reminds you that there is still beauty and light after a storm, like everything is going to be okay.

Headshot of a smiling woman with glasses and red hair wearing a green sweater

Athene Goodman, Gallery Guard

Travis Deal

Wood Interior, Emil Carlsen, gallery 208

I’m fairly apathetic about nature, preferring to put up barriers between myself and the outside. But when I think about the natural environments that can provide rejuvenation or rest, I’m led to heavily wooded areas—particularly in early winter when it starts to get colder and snowy, and the world quiets. I think of the thick pine forests and woods in the Pacific Northwest region of the US. This work instantly brings me to those spaces of tranquility. The white flecks of paint remind me of the first snowfall. I notice the ethereal nature of the painting highlighted by a fogginess, which leads to an absence of clarity and purpose. I can lose myself in the meditative space the scene creates.

Headshot of a smiling man with glasses wearing a black button up shirt

Travis Deal, Manager of Academic Affairs