Mount Colden | 36″ x 36″ | oil on canvas by Penny Santy

Human beings have always had a special relationship with nature, and the Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York offer plenty of spectacular beauty that have drawn artists to the park over time. I grew up not far from this spectacular national park and have made the trek up there frequently since I was a baby with family and friends, experiencing its dramatic, majestic mountains views, clear waters and abundant wildlife. Sometimes people spend their time relaxing and soaking in the beauty around them, while other times nature provides great challenges for people to overcome. Such is the case when I recently made the climb up Mount Colden, one of the high peaks. I wanted to capture the struggle we experienced climbing up sheer rock faces in high winds and wet air. In “Mount Colden,” the figures are small compared to the expanse of the mountain around, with only the immediate surroundings in sight. The experience can be a metaphor for human struggles and the determination to overcome them.


Landscape in the Adirondacks by Frederic Edwin Church

Hudson River School painters like Frederic Edwin Church were attracted to the area in the nineteenth century, where they placed an emphasis on light and a romantic respect for natural detail. Lake George and Whiteface Mountain were two of the most popular artist destinations. Thomas Cole was noted for his careful studies of nature, attention to particularities of place and time, and his almost unprecedented injection of Sublime aesthetics into American landscape painting.


John Frederick Kensett’s Lake George (1856) – colors linking the earth, air, water, and light

For luminist painters, God was seen in the stillness of nature and not necessarily in its wildness. John Frederick Kensett became a leading figure associated with the luminist style, with his spontaneous design and focus on atmospheric effects and spirituality.


Susie M. Barstow

Women artists associated with the Hudson River School, such as Susie M. Barstow, an avid mountain climber who painted the mountain scenery, may not be as recognized but certainly produced many important works of the time.

One of my favorite artists, Georgia O’Keeffe , spent parts of 1918 to 1934 with her husband, famed American photographer Alfred Stieglitz, at the Stieglitz’s family estate on Lake George. She is reported to have created over 200 pieces during this time. “It’s my private mountain. It belongs to me. God told me if I painted it enough, I could have it, ” she said. “ … there is something so perfect about the mountains and the lake and the trees.”


Georgia O’Keeffe, Autumn Trees-The Maple, 1924


Georgia O’Keeffe, Storm Cloud, Lake George, 1923

Of course, we all are familiar with the paintings of Winslow Homer. Homer’s Adirondack oils and watercolors take an original view of the human relationship to the natural world.


Winslow Homer

My own fascination with people’s interaction and connection with nature frequently brings me to paint images from and inspired by the Adirondack Park. Here’s a piece I did after spending time at the Elk Lake Lodge with some of my family. The contemplative quite and majestic mountains mirrored in the still water suggests heading into the unknown future with steady reserve.


Elk Lake | 48″ x 32″ | oil on canvas by Penny Santy

Mount Colden will be shown in the 2016 Central Adirondack Art Show at the View, Old Forge, NY., May 7 – June 12, 2016. Opening reception, May 7. For more information, go to

You can view more work by Penny Santy at


Forward, by Penny Santy | 48×36 | oil on linen

Being a woman artist, an important theme to my art is strength. While strength is an important aspect to anyone’s life because of its effects on their personal life, family, work, ect., it’s been of particular importance for women because women have had to overcome so many stereotypes and inequality. Strength effects character and self-confidence, and can be manifested in so many ways. Sometimes it can be seen in quite patience, as I observed in an old female longhorn that I depicted in Days End, as she patiently waited in the sun of the late afternoon for the others in her herd to finish eating before she could move in.


Joan Mitchell

“If women are to compete, they have to be tough,” Joan Mitchell once said. She lived up to this quote, and her paintings manifest it in so many ways. They are not only very large, demanding respect, but her marks show confidence in the loose strokes, confident lines, scrubs, and gobbed on thick paint. She unleashed her whole body and soul into her work, and the end result is both determined and lyrical.


Alice Neel

Strength happens when risks are taken. Alice Neel used simple, minimal marks that were loose and confident, and her paintings show pure honesty in her subjects. Mary Cassatt also portrays simple honesty in her paintings, using formal elements and how they related to each other, and was interested in dealing with inner struggle and domestic issues. Another female artist who showed tremendous strength is Frida Kahlo. Her paintings were representations of her own life and emotions, where she worked through her struggles, physically, with her identity and with her marriage and country. Her work used strong imagery and metaphor.

The works in my Connect-Disconnect: the Bovine Series paintings explore various manifestations of strength, energy and connections between beings or within themselves. The bull, with symbolic references to power, determination, physical strength, stability and confidence seemed like a perfect way to express these things after I had been observing them for some time. I continue to work with expression and gain strength in the use of my marks and imagery. As a woman artist, I’m determined to have a voice.


Days End by Penny Santy | 36×36 | oil on canvas

You can view more work by Penny Santy at


Stiff, frozen branches stretch and sway, flexing their limbs after the long winter freeze. Smells of long-buried leaves begin to fill the air. The spring melt has flooded the forrest floor.

Birds are starting to make their way back north, but still their songs are few and far between. The silence is broken, though. A melodic, yet eerie song echoes through the trees.

peeeeep peeeep. peeeeeeep peeeep.

At night I lay in bed with the windows open. The swamped forrest behind our house is filled with their calls. It’s so loud I can barely hear myself think. 

It’s the peeper’s songs of spring.

I lay there and imagine the dark, quiet forrest. But it’s not still. The frogs leap and dance with joy.

Spring has finally come.


the wind picks up
and the sea begins to foam
waves rise and flash their frothy snarls

sea stars tumble helplessly in the violent waves
limbs are ripped off and tossed aside carelessly
the sea is blue – the sea is black – the sea is white

why are you so violent?

after what seams like eternity the waves begin to soften
the sea stars have been tossed carelessly in a heap

but time passes – limbs regenerate


Jan. 24 – Feb. 21, 2014
Wilson Art Gallery

Noreen Reale Falcone Library, Le Moyne College
1419 Salt Springs Road, Syracuse, N.Y.

A collection of oil paintings using nature as a metaphor for the human experience.

Opening Reception
4 – 6 p.m.
Friday, Jan. 24
Wilson Art Gallery