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It's about the Light

Sundogs are a brilliant stream of white light, a rainbow without the colors. So brilliant, so stunning, that if you placed an icon at its base you could have a visionary religious experience. On my first early morning bike ride after the deluge of Vermont that was Hurricane Irene, the air was so full of moisture I witnessed a very rare multitude of these amazing albino rainbows and one had a cow at its base. I don't quite know the significance of that moment, but it gave me enough of a kick to power up a very steep hill -- a mystical cow, indeed.

The effect of light on the landscape of southern France not only produces excellent wine but inspired Cézanne to such a degree that he changed forever the way we visually perceive the natural world.

This summer I visited this region of rugged mountains with its ancient cities and countrysides, a patchwork of vineyards, sunflowers, and lavender. I couldn't help but view most everything in cubist form -- even without wine. The farm markets were pure visual pleasure. I did eat my way through several so it wasn't totally visual, but I do see why the still lifes of fruits and vegetables were so important to Cézanne. They are life, full of abundance and possibilities.

Pissaro's exposure in his early years to the Caribbean and Venezuelan light had an effect on his work. In the current exhibit at the Clark, Pissaro's People, you can see it in his gentle layering of paint to achieve some stunning luminous color, especially the violets.

I was looking forward to this exhibit but found the selections a bit sentimental. I have to hand it to the Clark: they know their audience (over 65) and, with this and similar exhibits, are able to pack the museum by the bus loads.

This packed-house phenomenon may peak in Washington, D.C., when the Phillips Collection opens Degas’s Dancers at the Barre: Point and Counterpoint on October 1st. The exhibit will explore Degas's fascination with dance through the Barre painting and related preparatory works. I finally got to visit Jacob's Pillow this summer and can see how easy it could be to fall under the spell of dancers in motion.

Another good reason to visit the Phillips in February will be Snapshot: Painters and Photography, Bonnard to Vuillard. The camera was a totally new amazing gadget for artists, just as film would later be for Picasso and Braque. For a painter like me, whose vision has been shaped by the photographic format and who takes a lot of photos, this should be an interesting experience.

There are many exhibits to see as the fall arts season gets underway, including a much-anticipated de Kooning show at the Museum of Modern Art. I'll do my best to share what I see.


Michael Peverett said...

That looks more like a lunar rainbow to me. Where was the object in relation to the sun and/or moon?

Mark Barry said...

Michael, that was a picture I was taken around 6pm in Maine last Summer, I didn't have my camera with me on the AM bike ride, sorry.

Michael Peverett said...

Well it's a wonderful thing anyway. And certainly very like the lunar rainbow I saw once, though the time eliminates that as a possibility. I guess what you saw on the post-hurricane bikeride was more amazing still.