Friday, February 27, 2009

The Light in the Temple

From a scene at the farm in Vermont, this old lamp, hanging from a rusty nail, was originally blue. My younger son Sam, surveying the photos from which I was working, noticed the discrepancy and asked why I had chosen red over the pale blue. I explained that it would be a stronger, more expressive image with a red lamp, and reminded him of our visit to the Rubin Museum of Art (specializing in items from the Himalayas and surrounding regions), where we learned that red is the color of power. I think his eyes glazed over when I started talking about how this simple camp lantern could be analogous to one of the lamps in a Tibetan temple, or even a Christian church. Indeed, my initial thoughts on this theme were drawn from the final scene in Evelyn Waugh's Brideshead Revisited, as Charles Ryder returns to the small family chapel at the Brideshead estate:

Something quite remote from anything the builders intended has come out of their work, and out of the fierce little human tragedy in which I played; something none of us thought about at the time: a small red flame - a beaten-copper lamp of deplorable design, relit before the beaten-copper doors of a tabernacle; the flame which the old knights saw from their tombs, which they saw put out; that flame burns again for other soldiers, far from home, farther, in heart, than Acre or Jerusalem. It could not have been lit but for the builders and the tragedians, and there I found it this morning, burning anew among the old stones.
Ok, perhaps I'm investing a little too much meaning in a painting of an old lamp. Simply take it as an example of the convoluted ruminations that keep me company most of the time. 9" x 12", watercolor, drybrush, pen and ink, on Fabriano cold-pressed 140 lb. paper.

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2 comments:

Barbara said...

It's raining here and I find my view of the trees today rather hypnotic. I just finished a book which featured a 'temple' in the woods ... the trees had been cultivated and the brush cleared so that the trees became the temple walls all around ... And now you've hung the lantern.

One Wink at a Time said...

You're amazing Brian. I don't know what inspires me more, your writing or your art work. At any rate, you never fail to move me one way or another.