Canadian, born United States,
Requiem for a Planet, to Moran and Hopper
North America, Canadian
40 in. x 90 in. (101.6 cm x 228.6 cm)
Medium and Support:
Oil on canvas, steel
Gift of the artist
For artist David Bierk, paintings of the past had a specific resonance within contemporary culture, and he quoted historical images in his own work to address the larger human condition in the present day. Bierk's "quotations" of imagery from the Old Masters are reprised originals of a different character. With vigorous brushwork and layers of glaze, he intensified the images and gave them a new existence.
In 2000 Bierk created "Requiem for a Planet, To Moran and Hopper" specifically for The Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts, referring to two paintings in the museum’s collection: "Dusk Wings", by Thomas Moran and "New York Office", by Edward Hopper. These works, created about one hundred years apart, are iconic depictions of the American landscape, one rural and bucolic, the other urbanized. Bierk physically separated Moran’s pure landscape from Hopper’s city scene by surrounding the earlier work with wide, dark, steel plates, which provide a rich setting for the glowing beauty of nature. This is the world made anew each day, pristine and unspoiled by man and his needs. Hopper’s image, on the right, has no such literal framing element, but in a sense, as Bierk revealed, the built environment of office window and street isolates the female figure like a confining frame.
The painting’s title, "Requiem for a Planet", further explicates Bierk’s theme. There is danger in overtaxing the resources of nature, he implied; to do so is to compromise its ability to support our very lives. The melancholy image of the woman behind the window resonates with our own feelings of loss and disconnection from a natural world that is slowly devolving into oblivion.
American Paintings from the Montgomery Musuem of Fine Arts, 2006, cat. no. 103, p. 238.