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