John Forgione and the Sacred Outdoors

Easton Front Porch

“Draw not nigh hither,” says God, appearing to Moses in a burning bush; “ put off thy shoes from thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground.” (Exodus 3:5)

The landscape that people encounter day-to-day no longer serves as a backdrop for God’s instruction the way it did for Moses. In these modern times, we have forgotten that we can still see the process of creation continuing in every moment in nature. For John Forgione and fellow Plein Air artists, however, nature is where creation and craft embrace. You may have seen John on the side of the road or off in the woods, connecting his paint and brush with the mystical energy that these natural settings exude.

“En plein air” is a French expression meaning “in the open air.” Plein Air artists capture the spirit and essence of a landscape or subject by incorporating natural light, color and movement into their works that can only come from seeing the subject outdoors in its natural form. Plein Air painting is most commonly associated with the impressionist painters, such as Monet, Renoir, Pissarro, Cezanne and Van Gogh. When painting Starry Night, Van Gogh affixed short candles around the brim of his hat in order to see his canvas.

John has been painting outdoor landscapes for the past 35 years. “I’ve always loved art and nature, and my artistic passion and influence started as a young boy when I was introduced to painting and sculpture by my uncle, mentor, and namesake John Forgione Sr.” says John.

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., John moved to Connecticut with his family at an early age. He graduated from Weston High School, went on to major in art and painting at the University of Connecticut, and graduated with a BFA. His lifelong love of nature and a strong influence of the French and American Impressionists drive his passion for Plein Air painting.

John moved to Easton 20 years ago, because of the many open spaces, farms, historic buildings and the beautiful vistas all around town. Easton is still home for him, his wife Cara and their three children, Mia, Marco and JT.

“I love the many farms and farmers of Easton. They are the stewards of the land and source of sustenance for the community. I’ve had the good fortune and pleasure of working to capture their energy and beauty. Then there’s the landmark buildings and spaces including the Aspetuck Apple Barn, Greiser’s Store, the reservoirs, old cemeteries, stone walls, winding backroads and many historic homes,” says John. Since living in Easton, John has become a member of the Easton Arts Council and an associate member of the NEST Art Factory in Bridgeport. He is also a former member of the Fine Line Art Gallery in Woodbury.

Trout Brook Valley Preserve in Easton, is one of John’s favorite spots to spend time. John was fortunate to have been involved in the preservation of the property nearly twenty years ago. When I asked him why Trout Brook Valley is so special, he replied, “Hiking up through the woods and into the orchard has a magical and peaceful quality, which I have tried to capture in many paintings. The gnarled apple trees, the variable weather and seasons, and the constantly moving light always provides for an interesting mood.”

The longer I spoke with John, swapping stories of hiking in Weston, camping on Mount Washington and a mutual affinity for Grateful Dead music, I realized that John’s relationship to nature goes beyond one of respect and reciprocity and falls into the category of sacred. For John, when he is outdoors painting a natural landscape, it is a spiritual experience, as if he is looking through a window into the cosmos.

“I am convinced there is a higher force, an astral plane, perhaps God — that is present all around us. It’s hard to recognize all the time, but It becomes even more apparent when the human brain is working with the imagination and in the creative process. For me, it happens when I forget about all things, and I’m standing in the midst of a natural landscape, I can actually feel the energy well up through the ground, into the grass, through my legs and into my mind. It’s hard to describe, but it’s there — when time literally compresses, vision becomes more focused, sounds and emotions become more distinct, and an inner peace, happiness, and oneness with the universe prevails. I am convinced that the world’s greatest artists, scientists, philosophers, poets, and other exceptional historical figures have connected with this energy and recognize it,” says John.

In addition to Easton scenery, John loves painting all around New England and at the shoreline in Rhode Island, but he is staying close to home these days. For John, there is no such thing as feeling isolated or lonely, especially when painting outdoors, where he feels most connected to his true self, and finds a respite from technology and the noise of everyday life. “Based upon my decades of painting and personal experiences in the woods, I am certain that nature is the cure for much of humankind’s ills.” With the industrialization of the world and the total dependence on the Internet and smart phones in order to be “connected,”many people have been removed from the restorative properties of nature,” says John.

John’s advice, especially during these trying times, is to “get outside, walk, breath in the air, look at the ground, see the rocks, the lichens, the birds, the dirt and the trees. Take nothing for granted. Each moment is a gift that should be savored and appreciated.”

Just as Moses found his holy place in a nondescript part of the Sinai Desert, John finds his in nature. Returning to paradise, at least in this life, seems like an impossible notion, but John reminds us that we can still get a glimpse from time-to-time by walking through a forest or open field, sitting by the ocean, or simply taking the time to enjoy a colorful sunset. Thank you, John.

Happy Passover and Easter everyone. Be safe, and be well.

To view more of Johns paintings, visit his website.

 

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