Every morning for the past fourteen years I have gazed at one of Will Steiger’s riverbends—a stunning mosaic of parceled farmland marked by abstracted trees and a curving white river against a blank horizon. The picture is a powerful drama about ingenuity and dominance. The natural world has been reduced to geometry, yet the geometry cannot hold back a river’s mighty force. Abstraction and realism are so precisely balanced that they work on me almost hypnotically, transporting my mind to real and imaginary places. I soar above the Midwest in a single-engine plane. I am in a novel about the anxiety of dislocation such as Winesburg, Ohio or Sister Carrie.
Timeless and evocative, unpopulated yet overwhelmingly human, Steiger’s depiction of the clash of nature and man never ceases to move me. Looking at it now I feel lonely and inspired.
Melissa Milgrom is the author of Still Life: Adventures in Taxidermy, reviewed in Audubon's May-June 2011 issue.