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Building Nature

Kadowaki--Country Construction.jpg

Roy Kadowaki, "Country Construction"

Genesee Valley Council on the Arts 

New Deal Gallery

Lower Falls 9.jpg

Photo of artitecture inserted into the natural scene at the lower falls area at Letchworth State Park in Mt. Morris, NY.

As living and thriving human beings, we live in an open world. Open to new ideas, new people, new technology, and new changes; both beneficial and harmful. One of the most prominent spheres of this change is in nature. Especially in a rapidly developing environment, mankind has had an ideal perception of nature that this still pure, and has not been corrupted by man and our developments. Based on an analysis of archaeological, fossil and ancient DNA data, researchers have concluded that humans have been affecting the natural world ecosystem beginning in the Late Pleistocene, 195,000 years ago. Even the earliest humans exploited the landscape for the purposes of agriculture and hunting. What’s more, is that researchers argue that humans have been influencing nature and affecting the natural world for as long as they have existed. In essence, the fantasy of “untouched” nature has never existed on the Earth.

Air pollution blankets the planet, leaving almost no unpolluted places left. As the Earth becomes more densely populated and new technologies and developments are created, more emissions and pollutants are cast out into the atmosphere. According to scientists, it is difficult to locate a place that remains free from human noise for just 15 minutes. Additionally, new technologies reveal that even the most remote patches of the rainforest display millennium-old human scars. This information is being revealed by lasers used to examine the Earth’s surface. The “purity” of a location at this point in time, is not a matter of fact but rather, a matter of who you ask. 

By looking at the painting to the left, we see Roy Kadowaki's work entitled "Country Construction." This painting is part of the New Deal Gallery's collection of Great Depression era works from the 1930s. What is painted is a peaceful scene of a lush countryside, in tune with the construction of a structure, possibly an addition to an otherwise quaint house. A small figure of a man stands next to the scaffolding for scale. In the foreground, a tree lays cut and sits quietly as two logs. The Earth toned color palette is consistent throughout the entirety of the painting: from the natural elements, to the manmade, including man himself. This color palette seaks to blend all elements of the painting into a harmonious mix of the natural with the man made in a way that the two appear inseparable. In this sense, we are unable to separate nature from man. The same can be said about the world we are living in. Regardless of how pure or untouched we may assume nature to be, man cannot be separated, his imprint is ever-present in this open world. 

The photo below “Country Construction” is not all that different from the painting itself. Notice that the architect has seamlessly built the staircase into the side of the Earth. The staircase is made entirely of stone, which has moss covering most of the stones, yeilding a homogenous, Earthy aestheic that blends it with the Earth which surrounds it. At first glance, it is hard to separate where nature ends, and where the man-made begins. Note that the same sensation is being described in Kadowaki's painting. It is very difficult to separate the natural from the man-made in an effort to make an inorganic structure appear “natural.” Again, it is a blending of man and nature that cannot be separated.

The idea of a pure and untouched Earth is a myth that we continue to believe, despite the plethora of ecological evidence that suggests otherwise. We seek to look back to thoughts of a virgin, or pristine nature that existed before generations of man. According to researchers, the “original condition” of the planet is something that has not existed for thousands of years. It is recommended that instead of focusing on a pure Earth that is lost, that we should work to restore the world in which we live. It brings relevance again to the threat of climate change, warming, and the consequences of pollution on the natural world. Experts believe that the beginning of human impact on the Earth originated almost 200,000 years ago. There is a drive for us to conquer "untamed nature" and while as we've seen time and time again that nature possesses more control than man, man's influence is not absent. Again, although we seek to revert to a time where we would be able to experience nature in its original state, experts tell us that this is not possible. The best we can do now is to restore the world in which we live, rather than living in the fantasy of "untouched" nature. 

Works Consulted

—Dockrill, Peter. “It's Official: There Are No More 'Untouched' Places Left on Earth.” ScienceAlert,

—Mooney, Chris, and Brady Dennis. “Scientists Say That 'Nature,' Untouched by Humans, Is Now Almost Entirely Gone.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 6 June 2016

—Nuwer, Rachel. “Future - There's No Such Thing as Truly 'Pristine' Nature Anymore.” BBC, BBC, 8 Feb. 2016

“Untouched Nature Is Entirely Gone.” Next Nature Network, 11 June 2016,