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Three Lampposts

Oil and Pastel on Wood panel

18x24

 

“There is no art without contemplation.”

― Robert Henri 



 

"I suspect that dreams are an integral part of existence, with far more use for us than we've made of them... The fine line between the dream state and reality is, at times, for me, quite grey."

-David Bowie

 

 

 

A winter winding park path leading to a great city. What about this painting do you like? Do you find anything problematic? Does it evoke a memory? Is it happy or sad? These are all questions worth contemplating when analyzing art. When choosing a painting for my monthly newsletter, it must contain a quality I personally find delightful. In this case, my attention draws to contrasts: the raw roughness of the pastel chalk against the liquid fluid paint, the quiet park path vs. the noisy city center, sitting still on a bench as opposed to walking in motion, pondering day or night. Most paradoxical, however, is the question of light and dark. Of course, only you, the viewer, can answer any of these questions, and I assure you that however you answer, you are correct. 

 

A Short Thought:

The importance of Light and Dark:

 

All told, there are 1,600 cast-iron street lamps scattered around Central Park. Every modern city aspires to be a clean, well-lighted place.

 

Light diffuses in both physical spaces and mental states. It repels the multitude of darknesses that hide in the murky dawdles of our minds. We remake our stories, abandoning the ones that no longer fit and trying new ones on for size. Darkness, however, teaches us to do less, something I am not always prepared to learn. Winter, in both mind and spirit, is darkness. It is an aging parent, a sick child, a lost job, or a mental depression. Nature, however, teaches winter is a normal cycle, holding an enchanting space for all ordinary creatures to survive. Bears and bats hibernate while butterflies tuck away behind loose bark or fallen leaves. Nature provides moments of contemplation and solitude, inviting transitions into a more sustainable life, providing an opportunity to get a little lost, leading to understanding the self more completely. It will get darker, leaner, and more lonely. It is not a time of banishment but, similar to the butterfly, it is a time of transformation, reflection, and growth. At least, that is how it used to be before the Industrial Revolution. The mythological spring is a metamorphosis of nature when butterflies emerge from the chrysalis and leaves sprout with bright pink and green buds under icy blue darkness. Wintertime is a chamber of growth. 

 

In the name of progress, have we lost the metaphorical winter in both mind and place? Winter is darkness. Look out the window- where is the dark? Are we failing to grow and evolve because we are missing the night? In several of my paintings, I include lampposts: Stroll on the Hudson, Central Park Snow, Gapstow Bridge, Inscope Arch, to name just a few. I find lampposts enchanting. My depictions of the glow around the globes of light are more than just symbolic halos; they are fabulous framing devices and focal points. The electric lamps were first incorporated into the park in 1910 by designer Henry Bacon. In 1980, the lamp was redesigned by NY architect Gerald Allen and Yale professor Kent Bloomer. Bloomer and Allen sought to connect nature to the man-made object, an idea I play with regularly in my urban landscapes. "The whole idea of the natural landscape reproduced in the man-made elements of the park," Mr. Bloomer said, "was in the spirit of those times and is traceable to the 19th-century theoretician John Ruskin. The Bacon lamppost itself depicts seeds, leaves, stems, and a trunk. The lamppost was a metaphor for a plant." https://www.nytimes.com/1983/08/28/nyregion/how-design-was-decided-for-central-park-s-lamps.html

 

 

 

Today, however, man-made is out of balance with nature. In 2016 the soft yellow glow was switched to the LED and transformed the city's appearance overnight.   LED is touted as more versatile and efficient than any previous light source besides the sun, moon, and stars. We soak in broad-spectrum throughout waking hours and at night, we barely notice the world's color has changed. And yet, pausing to wonder, are we painting our nights the way we want them to look?  And does it matter?  Is the blue hue bouncing off the path progress?  Brilliance is central to New York City's allure, with the giant screen of Times Square and polychrome costumes of the Empire State Building drawing sensational worldwide crowds.  Every year gets brighter and bluer as the firelight yellow of sodium vapor gives way to progress.  I, too, was seduced by it all, but as of late, have been rethinking my romance with night lights.  Plagued by chronic lethargy and insomnia, I wonder if perhaps stress is not the only culprit. An informative TED Talk by Diane Turnshek sheds “light” on this subject at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-xSv33prmGY.

 

 

Before the Industrial Revolution, life after sunset was visually dark. Unlit streets made home the only navigable space. Sleep patterns Post-Industrial era completely changed.  I learned that sleep had two cycles. Night waking was an ordinary component of life.  The "midnight watch," when the regular wake period occurred,  prolactin levels soared and altered states of consciences, similar to meditation occurred. It provided a time for solace and restful contemplation; remembering dreams and living in a blissful vale between sleep and wake. It is a place with little space today. In the Post-Industrial Revolution, we now have the addition of an ever-growing arsenal of electronics with which to contend. Our phones, computers, and tablets at our bedside bring obligations and reminders of things we try hard to forget. The flow of narratives between contemplation, cognition, and dreams no longer have enough room. How can we expect vitality and clearheadedness without darkness?  I suspect many of us are living in a fog.   All human beings are also dreaming beings. Dreaming ties all humankind together.  I did not start this painting to explore day and night.  I honestly was only painting what I found beautiful.  It, like all things, changed over time, as all things do.  Paths are indeed winding and like the Central Park path meandering in time and space.  Give space for your mind to wander and see what develops. I still love the lamppost.  Now I switch it off.  

 

 

This artwork, as well as my other lampposts, are available for purchase on my urban landscape collection at my website.  Please as always drop me a line to give me your thoughts.   I especially love it when someone stumbles on a profound thought that I had not thought of before. I leave you with one such thought that was given to me by a treasured newsletter subscriber that made me pause and think.

 

 

"There is a saying about a picture being worth a thousand words.  On the other hand, a thousand words can be a picture for some, some who sense movement, actions, and energy."

 

-Dr. Francis Long

 

 

 

 

 



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