single-channel HD video
Henry Melville Fuller Fund,
Liz Nofziger’s Chocorua
is a high-definition, looped video that focuses on Chocorua, one of the in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. The video places the verdant mountain in the center of the frame and ripples of crystalline blue lake water in the foreground. The reflection of the mountain darkens the blue water, and haze silhouettes the peak, creating flickering, heather-gray shadows. The clouds move almost imperceptibly over the duration of the nineteen-minute video loop, in contrast to the tiny black flies that dart quickly in front of the camera lens. The ambient sound suggests the movement of foliage in the wind, but also the more incongruous sound of cars passing on the nearby highway. Foreshortened foliage on the righthand side of the frame, at top and bottom, grounds the viewer at the water’s edge, halfway between the pastoral idyll and the buzzing sound of traffic just out of view.
Context and Analysis
In Chocorua the artist presents a picturesque mountain view that slowly changes and develops with the passing of time, patterns of weather, and the deepening consideration of the viewer. The work engages with the type of heroic landscape made familiar by European and American painters of the 1800s. Landscape paintings of that period often used Romantic notions of the sublime to convey the awesome power of nature or ideal, harmonious interactions between civilization and the wild.
In the 1800s and early 1900s, the White Mountains were accessible to artists based in the urban centers of the East Coast, yet still retained a sense of wilderness and detachment from the realities of industrial life. Thomas Cole, renowned landscape painter of the Hudson River School, took the White Mountains as his subject in the early 1800s, as did Albert Bierstadt in the 1860s and American Modernist John Marin in the 1900s. Their work highlighted the need to preserve the untouched qualities of nature. It also at times provided a convenient, idealized “screen” to distract from the reality of rapid development and tourism. Chocorua
deals explicitly with the friction between wild nature and the encroachment of civilization, as the viewer can hear the sounds of passing vehicles periodically. Nofziger’s work simultaneously acknowledges the weighty painting tradition of the White Mountains, while contemplating Chorocua as it is today. 1
The debut of the Sony portable video camera in 1965 made video a relatively accessible medium for artists. The development was very similar to the innovations in portable paint a century earlier that allowed painters to work outdoors, or en plein air
, to capture their impressions of nature. Chocorua
was made using the similarly democratized technology of the contemporary digital video camera.
This work was created specifically for the exhibition Shifting Terrain: Landscape Video
, held at the Currier Museum July 2 through September 18, 2011. The museum invited seven New England–based video artists to exhibit new or preexisting works that engage with landscape, as part of a dialogue between contemporary art practices and the historical collection. The Currier has a strong collection of American landscape paintings of the 1800s. Nofziger’s work interacts with this legacy, especially with works that also take the White Mountains as their subject matter, such as Jasper Francis Cropsey’s An Indian Summer Morning in the White Mountains
(1857; Currier, 1962.17
) and Sophia Towne Darrah’s Chocorua
(1856; Currier, 1994.8
). Nofziger’s Chocorua
is exhibited alongside these paintings in order to pose questions about the museum’s traditional divisions of media and chronology, and to provoke a reevaluation of our contemporary relationship with nature. As Nofziger states: “While traditional landscape works often reflect on the sublime qualities of nature, or a harmony in the relationship between civilization and the wild, I sought to consider the shifts in this harmony as contemporary life encroaches upon the great outdoors.” 2
Written by Michelle Millar Fisher
1“I think much of my work is ultimately about looking . . . about drawing focus to fissures in the spaces we occupy, to incongruities in our surrounds, and extracting or building on the array of associations already implicit in the known objects or structure” (Federici 2011).
2 Artist File, Currier Museum. The quotation comes from the object label for Pore (2011) in the Shifting Terrain exhibition at the Currier.
Bozicnik, Nina. Shifting Terrain: Landscape Video: Louisa Conrad, Julia Hechtman, Liz Nofziger, Daniel Phillips, Jeannie Simms, Mary Ellen Strom, Suara Welitoff. Manchester, NH: Currier Museum of Art, 2011.
Federici, Valeri. “Interview with Liz Nofziger.” Weblog post. Positive Magazine, March 21, 2011.
Manning, James. “A Conversation with Liz Nofziger.” Interview. Weblog post. Big, Red & Shiny, 2005.
McGrath, Robert L. Gods in Granite: The Art of the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 2001.
McQuaid, Cate. “Landscapes That Live and Breathe.” Boston Globe, August 13, 2011.
Nofziger, Liz. “Artist Statement.” East Boston Artists Group Website. http://www.eastbostonartistsgroup.org/Liz_Nofziger.html (accessed August 1, 2013).
2011 Currier Museum of Art, Manchester, NH, "Shifting Terrain: Landscape Video." July 2 - Sept. 18.
Artist (created for CMA exhibition "Shifting Terrain: Landscape Video" July 2 - September 18, 2011)
Purchased by Currier Museum of Art, 2011