Why is the cusp of the day so potent? In some ancient cultures, dusk was believed to be a boundary time of day when humans were more susceptible to temptation, dark potentials and secrets. In France, L’Heure Blue (the Blue Hour) is thought to be a confusing, mysterious time when it is impossible to determine whether it is really dusk or dawn, the sky and the earth being at the same level of atmospheric bluish luminosity.
Observing nature at this threshold time has been inspiring for painters like Inness, Turner and Whistler as well as the Transcendentalists who felt that a communion with the spiritual force of nature resulted in the mystical surrender of the self. At its most primal level, dusk is a metaphor for temporality. I have always loved the quality of twilight as the transient light becomes night, slowly obscuring the details of day.
I was recently up at the Clarke Art Museum in Williamstown, MA. This museum has a gorgeous setting in the Berkshires and its stark architecture reflects and echoes the land. Entering the second gallery, I witnessed a whole room of George Inness paintings, a Luminist painter whose dematerialized landscapes I have been intrigued with lately.
Inness said: “elabourateness in detail did not gain meaning in me…I could not sustain it everywhere and produce the sense of spaces and distances with them, that subjective mystery of nature, with which wherever I went I was filled.”
I know the seductive hook of detail and the liberation of letting it go. This mystery, this DISSOLUTION of detail, is something I find beautiful in nature on a foggy day or as the light fades.
Painters who are brave enough to let go and disengage the anchor of recognition can evoke the spiritual, sensorial experience of being surrounded by nature. Painting the optical obscuration inherent to twilight or atmospheric conditions necessitates abstraction. This abstraction invites the viewer to meet the work in a place that is beyond specific physical boundaries connecting to unseen realms. The viewer is encouraged to think about themselves and their relationship to nature in new ways.
Painting can be a catalyst for reconnecting people with a spirit of place and reawakening enthusiasm for their physical environment, presenting a vision of the environment that transcends its physical appearance and communicates the unity of nature and the human spirit.
Until next week, stand outside at dusk and bathe in the Blue Hour…see what it inspires. CREATE.