A Magic Carpet for Would-Be Time Travelers

Philip Koch, Returning, oil on canvas, 28 x 42", 2009

Philip Koch, The Return, vine charcoal, 9 x 12"

Was looking for an image for today's post and on my alphabetical list found these two images with similar sounding titles. Each in their way is about coming home.

The top painting completed just this year was actually started some years back. It was painted from life on the same road where my oil Under the Moon was done (see 9/15/09- A Memorial to a Lonely Cat). Unlike that tall ghostly house, here was a diminutive house I could imagine myself wanting to come home to.

Only now writing about it do I realize how much it reminds me of a tiny house of roughly the same vintage in the woods in my hometown. I used to wait alone for the school bus there. At least in the earlier years of my public schooling an elderly couple lived there. The wife sometimes would come out and give me cookie and listen with interest to whatever I had on my mind. That and a genuine warm smile was all she offered, but that went a long way with me. Her husband died while I was still in elementary school and shortly after his wife fell, broke her hip, and died herself a few months later. After that the lights in the house stayed dark and the my wait for the school bus felt lonelier. When I discovered the red house used for Returning, a lot of the feeling it evoked in me must have traced back to the house in my childhood.

Does water have a memory? I'd like to think so for its travels more than rival our own. Stirred by the sun, evaporated up into the sky, carried god knows where by the wind. In time it falls back to earth and starts again its journey from small stream to larger. The vine charcoal drawing The Return, was done plein air in Truro, MA on Cape Cod. Down in the foreground valley a tributary of the little Pamet River winds south to join the main stream before the waters issue out into Cape Cod Bay. Though it's not visible in the drawing, Edward Hopper's painting studio would be a speck on the horizon.

I don't really think we all want to go home again. But for all of us there are palpable memories of qualities, personalities, moods of "back then" so special to us we'd love to magically drag them into our present. Painting often times is just a successful search to give form to these longings so we can convey something of how we're feeling to others. Painting in a sense is the magic carpet that makes this kind of time travel possible.


  1. Philip:
    Growing up in the Rochester area did you ever meet or were you aware of Carl Peters?

  2. Unfortunately no, as my interest in visual art only blossomed after I went off to Oberlin College and took an art history survey class. Have run into Peters' work since then and admit the fellow could be pretty sharp. Like Peters I find the muse a bit more easily when I'm painting in New England.


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