Expanding Comparisons and Mapping the Waterfall Experience

Over the course of this past week, I’ve conducted further literary research to expand several portions of my scholarly essay and constructed a rough outline of how I intend to map the waterfall experience. For comparisons, I investigated how Mt. Fuji is depicted in photographs and illustrations. Paintings by Hokusai – a renowned Japanese artist of the 19th century – were particularly significant in this regard, especially those included in his “36 Views of Mt. Fuji” collection. I also drew information from Carlson’s Nature, Aesthetics, and Environmentalism to support my findings on the role of aesthetics in the waterfall experience and the reoccurring concept of nature being a distinct counterpart to, or escape from urban life. In this collection of essays, Carlson also describes how scenic qualities of a landscape can have a positive impact on people’s value of nature and motivates conservation.

Artist depictions of Mt. Fuji, particularly through the seasons, provide interesting points of comparison to how photographers and artists represent waterfalls in the Columbia River Gorge. Timothy Clark’s book, Hokusai: Beyond the Great Wave, was an excellent resource in this regard. He mentions how Hokusai utilizes different color spectrums to illustrate the transience of Mt. Fuji through the seasons. In winter scenes, he paints with shades of blue and white, increasing his use of reds and browns for summer scenes. It is also interesting to note how the form of Fuji varies from place to place – sometimes appearing as a small triangle in the distance while at other times emerging as the painting’s centerpiece. Hokusai’s paintings of Mt. Fuji also relate to concepts of the sublime and picturesque. In some paintings, like Tsukuda Island, Fuji is shown as a complementary aspect of a broader landscape while in others like Red Fuji, the mountain dominates the scene and is shown in great detail.

Clark’s book also contained useful information regarding the centrality of natural aesthetics in Japanese culture. Hokusai’s paintings of waterfalls like Ono Waterfall, Kiso Highway show a sense of “communion” between humans and their surrounding natural landscapes. Lockyer mentions that, “to understand this communion, we need to follow Hokusai carefully when he encourages us to look at things like waterfalls. From a distance or up close, he was determined to narrow the gap between us and what we might want to see simply as nature” (Lockyer, 2017). In Forrer’s book, Hokusai: Mountains and Water, Flowers and Birds, he mentions how Hokusai “depicted bridges in all provinces as a counterpart to that of waterfalls” (Forrer, 2004). This relates heavily to the significance of the Benson Bridge at Multnomah Falls as a piece of infrastructure that works harmoniously with the surrounding landscape. The notion of “harmonious” infrastructure as complimentary counterparts to waterfalls is an intriguing topic that I intend to research in greater depth and add to the bottom of the hourglass.

Carlson’s book, Nature, Aesthetics, and Environmentalism emphasizes nature as a counterpoint to urban life and a place of “refuge.” Although she mentions how this is most true in a wilderness setting, many visitors to both Multnomah and Latourell Falls valued a break from the city even though neither of these locations offer a rugged “wilderness” experience. Her emphasis on sensoral stimulation in the outdoors relates to the waterfall experience as she states how “the experience of wild nature is more likely to enhance our ability to use our senses” (Carlson, 2008). She also notes how the aesthetic value of a landscape connects to ethical obligations of respect and preservation. Picturesque appeal can be a useful starting point for practical environmental ethics – a notion I will discuss for my broader implications.

With regards to my map, I intend to guide the viewer through the waterfall experience through elements of  historical scale. It will begin with a geologic background on the Columbia River Gorge and how basaltic flows combined with land tilt set up the Oregon side to contain high concentrations of waterfalls. It will also mention the impact of the differing rates of erosion between the Columbia River and its smaller tributaries in the Gorge. The map will then narrow down to focus on the human history of the area and its development as a tourist destination. This will include historical photographs of the waterfalls and descriptions of the area. After this background, the map will narrow down again to show how the waterfalls are advertised in the present day – as precursors to the waterfall experience. Then, I will guide the viewer through a visitor’s individual experience at both Multnomah and Latourell Falls. In this section, I will utilize photos I’ve taken from my visits along with data I’ve collected from my surveys. Over the course of this next week, I intend to “build out” on my outline for the map, begin working on the map, and further incorporate this week’s research into my scholarly essay.

Works Cited

Carlson, Allen., and Lintott, Sheila. Nature, Aesthetics, and Environmentalism: From Beauty to Duty. New York: Columbia University Press, 2008.

Forrer, Matthi., and Katsushika, Hokusai. Hokusai: Mountains and Water, Flowers and Birds. Pegasus Bibliothek. Munich ; New York: Prestel, 2004.

Katsushika, Hokusai, Clark, Timothy, Lockyer, Angus, Matsuba, Ryoko, Asano, Shūgō, Haft, Alfred, Thames Hudson, Publisher, and British Museum, Host Institution, Organizer, Issuing Body, Publisher. Hokusai: Beyond the Great Wave. First ed. New York, New York: Thames & Hudson in Collaboration with the British Museum, 2017.


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