In her opening remarks, Heyl recalled a conversation with Aldrich at his home in Barrytown during which he remarked, "A painting at Olana saved us from a nuclear power plant." That painting was this one: Winter Scene, Olana, circa 1890. As one of the participants asserted, "This view and this painting changed history."
The painting was evidence in the hearings before the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board. Benas, who at the time worked for the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, testified at those hearings. In his testimony, he quoted extensively from the book The Landscape of Frederic Edwin Church: Vision of an American Era, by noted art historian David C. Huntington, to make the point that "to lose the view from Olana would destroy the vision for America that existed at that time." The following excerpts from Huntington's book were part of Benas's testimony at the hearings:
"Winter Scene, Olana, c. 1890 . . . is an accurate sextant reading taken at Longitude 74 degrees, Latitude 42 degrees, in January. In this view, Church's inborn optimism dictates his choice of nature's moment; here the sharp, cold atmosphere and the sullen hues of a winter day are rescued from gloom by the newly arrived cheer of high luminous sunstruck clouds. . . . Winter Scene, Olana, shows the view in cloudy winter weather. On a crisp clear day, ridges of mountains break the horizon some sixty miles away. It is the view of expansionist America, an earthscape."
|Photo by Chas A. Miller III
The proposal for the nuclear power plant was rejected on March 23, 1979. It was the first time a project of this nature was rejected on the basis of environmental aesthetics. Five days later, the accident at Three Mile Island occurred.