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slant

the Detroit Institute of Arts

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Coastal Landscape on Fehmarn, ca. 1913, oil on canvas, 35 1/2 x 47 1/2".

I FIRST SAW ERNST LUDWIG KIRCHNER’S Coastal Landscape on Fehmarn, ca. 1913, at the Detroit Institute of Arts when I was sixteen. As a teenager from the suburbs of Detroit and new to painting, I was trying to push myself to make anything other than sad people crouching in corners or robots with stigmata. Often, I would head out along Hines Drive, a bucolic and sinister series of parks, and think about painting landscape. (Sinister, because there were stories of bikers who lived in the woods behind the parks who would no doubt rape and kill you.) Michigan was full of such places, and as teenagers we would eagerly seek them out by car, our only reprieve from what we perceived as the relentless flatness of our life. Basically, any place with a hill or a pit could be an exotic destination. Family trips “up North” or to Sleeping Bear Dunes broke the uniform flatness, and Lake Michigan

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