"When dawn spreads its paintbrush on the plain, spilling purple... ," Sons of the Pioneers theme for TV show "Wagon Train." Dawn on the mythic Santa Fe Trail, New Mexico, looking toward Raton from Cimarron. -- Clarkphoto. A curmudgeon artist's musings melding metaphors and journalism, for readers in more than 150 countries.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Deep shadows

"Deep Shadows," 5" x 7" watercolor
"Shadow Play," was yesterday's WorldWatercolorMonth challenge prompt, and it had me stumped for an abstract response.
The death of two friends, John Lawton and Jon Finch, in the past week caused me to say to my wife this morning, "Vacancies." Vacancies in life...and thus no physical shadows.
But you know  they leave shadows of a different kind.
In fact, we are multiple shadows. 
Genetically, we are mere shadows of our ancestors, generation after generation, but not just physically. I think mentally and spiritually too. The way we think, believe, act are often shadows also our friends, families, loved ones, environments, cultures and experiences. Spiritually? Regardless of your religious beliefs, if you believe in in an eternity or superior being or reincarnation, you believe you were created. Since G(god(s) are creators, and we're "made in His image," that specifically says we have the shadow of creativity in us, somehow.
Deep shadows of thoughts for a simple watercolor month.
I then thought of Plato's famous "Allegory of the Cave" written in 380 BC in his Republic, one of the most fascinating essays on reality and perception.
When I taught feature writing, I used it to show students that words were mere shadows of reality and it was important to use specific, not fuzzy words. It's been used to discuss education and much more by scholars galore.
For me as artist and journalist though, it is an illustration of how everything we see is a mere shadow of light, of light reflected.
Remember in Genesis 1:2 where God created light--essentially he created color--and shadow. No light, no color, and certainly, no shadows.
Most of what we see are because shadows, or different forms of color as my favorite artist Cezanne proved, form the substance of three dimensional reality.
I guess all this is shadow play, which is why I played at trying to paint, abstractly of course, what the chained prisoners saw as shadows on a cave wall and thought was reality.
So here's "Deep Shadows," 300 lb. d'Arches cold press paper, painted yesterday but the Internet was down.
And here's Plato's "Allegory of the Cave" from his Republic (the Socrates dialogues):
[Socrates:]And now, I said, let me show in a figure how far our nature is enlightened or unenlightened:—Behold! human beings living in a underground den, which has a mouth open towards the light and reaching all along the den; here they have been from their childhood, and have their legs and necks chained so that they cannot move, and can only see before them, being prevented by the chains from turning round their heads. Above and behind them a fire is blazing at a distance, and between the fire and the prisoners there is a raised way; and you will see, if you look, a low wall built along the way, like the screen which marionette players have in front of them, over which they show the puppets.

[Glaucon:]I see.

And do you see, I said, men passing along the wall carrying all sorts of vessels, and statues and figures of animals made of wood and stone and various materials, which appear over the wall? Some of them are talking, others silent.
You have shown me a strange image, and they are strange prisoners.
Like ourselves, I replied; and they see only their own shadows, or the shadows of one another, which the fire throws on the opposite wall of the cave?
True, he said; how could they see anything but the shadows if they were never allowed to move their heads?
And of the objects which are being carried in like manner they would only see the shadows?
Yes, he said.
And if they were able to converse with one another, would they not suppose that they were naming what was actually before them?
Very true.
And suppose further that the prison had an echo which came from the other side, would they not be sure to fancy when one of the passers-by spoke that the voice which they heard came from the passing shadow?
No question, he replied.
To them, I said, the truth would be literally nothing but the shadows of the images.

That is certain.

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