late november light
The past few weeks, a marsh hawk has joined my cat hunting in the field outside our house. The hawk flies low over the fading yellow grasses; the white band at the base of his tail feathers is bright against the muted colors of the day. In fact, the entire body of the hawk appears boldly colored, pewter and rust. My black patch of a cat watches the hawk, unafraid and curious to see how it fares. On the horizon, an intense ivory light pierces the layers of clouds. How many colors can a shadow contain?
Shoulder seasons in Jackson sometimes get short shrift. But if we fine-tune our vision to seek out subtle variations and the rich, moodiness of an earthier palette, the beauty at this time of year rivals our more famous seasons. Here are three valley artists whose work – and words – reveal the qualities of light in late November.
On her website, Pamela Gibson tells about her encaustic painting, “Love That Well” (below):
Several years ago I read a Shakespeare sonnet (#73) that so inspired me that I hung it in my studio, and read it again almost every time I walk through the door. The final line is: “Love that well, which thou must leave ‘ere long.”
This new body of work, inspired by this sonnet, is about the passage of time, the changing of the seasons, the frightening condition of our planet, and a continuing meditation on what is really of value in a world that is morphing before our eyes. It is at once personal and global, and is infused with both love and fear.
My choice of medium for this work is intentional. It is made by laying down layer of layer of hot wax, scraping back to find something hidden in an earlier layer, and then layering again. While I work I have a paintbrush in one hand and a torch in another; it is a violent process. It is not far fetched to say the subject of this series is death—mine, yours, nature’s. While I hope the paintings are beautiful, my intention is that they are more, and carry with them a warning to love all that we hold dear.
The artist I credit with first waking me up to how much the natural world holds for us to examine and be moved by in November is Kathryn Mapes Turner. I would argue that to most fully appreciate Kathryn’s mastery of color and mood found in her best known paintings of the dramatic Teton Range and iconic western horses, we should also spend time with her quieter paintings, like this new one she posted on Facebook earlier in the month. “Finally feels like November in Jackson Hole,” Kathryn wrote. “Every season has it’s own special beauty.”
I always love talking with my friend Ben Roth, whose bold, playful sculptures make me marvel as much at the possibilities of wire mesh as the seemingly infinite curl of a chameleon’s tail. Recently we were talking about the subtle beauty of November. He told me that he likes scenes like the one he captured below, when snow is falling on the top of a mountain but not the valley floor, so that the trees look as if they are fading into clouds as the eye moves upwards.
“The job of the artist is being able to clarify or highlight what is here,” Ben said. “I strive for subtlety. The deep observation. It’s about looking closer and noticing the wonderment in the simple.”
“In this day and age when we are all moving so quickly, if you can get someone to stop and notice or ask a question, you’re art is doing something.”