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Fastovsky--Summer Afternoon.jpg

Isaac Fastovsky, Summer Afternoon (1936). Click here for full-size image.

There are a variety of methods to define nature whether it is as simple as trees and plants, or as complex as an entire ecosystem. But what can be easily agreed upon is that the concept of nature is often depicted as a contrast to humans. Whether it is a polar opposite or a resource to use, nature is a different space to inhabit. When the general public thinks of nature, a few things that easily come the to mind may include: the closest forest or a national park. Many consider Letchworth to be nature, however it is completely constructed. It used to be the estate of William P. Letchworth, and after he died, it was bounced between several groups including: the American Scenic and Historic Preservation Society and the Genesee Park Commission, before the Civilian Conservation Corps took it over. We can see the human influences in the present throughout Letchworth, through the stone bridges, picnic shelters, and the winding roads. The curious thing, is that these structures are manipulated to imitate nature, almost to the point that we associate it with nature itself. This will explore the painting Summer Afternoon, in conjunction with features of Letchworth State park, to understand why we view these engineered facets as nature.

The painting above, by Isaac Fastovsky, illustrates a nature scene landscape, saturated with vibrant colors within the river and trees. If we zoom in to the river, we see a few young boys intruding on the river's space. A harmless occurrence, merely a few boys playing in the creek, and perhaps this invokes a feeling of nostalgia. This entire scene has been carefully constructed in order to mask the subtle human influences upon this river scene. The trees curve towards each other in an arc to mask the bridge arching over the boys. The bridge utilizes the autumn leaf color scheme in order to blend in. Even farther back, obscured by more trees, is a boardwalk utilizing the same camouflage as the bridge.

Works Consulted

—Breslin, Tom, and Tom Cook. History of Letchworth State Park, Letchworth

—“Civilian Conservation Corps.” History, A&E Television Networks, 11 May 2010, CCC.

—“Federal Art Project of Works Progress Admin - Modern Art Terms and Concepts.” The Art Story, The Art Story Foundation, Art Story Foundation.