Philip Koch, From Day to Night, oil on panel, 18 x 36", 2011
Can you do a painting about hope? I think so, but perhaps coming straight out and saying it plainly might raise some eyebrows.
Some years ago everyone in my extended family was invited to a wedding on the other side of the country. Except me. By design or neglect, I never got an invitation. Feeling a little sorry for myself I decided to fly up to Maine to go painting for a week. I went to the mid coast town of Camden, one of the few places where the mountains come right down to the Atlantic. Arriving in something of a dark mood, I was distressed to find it raining steadily. As it turned out, I fought the rain and grey, and a touch more loneliness than usual the whole time I was there.
From a purely painting standpoint though it wasn't that bad and some excellent pieces got painted. It's amazing how much work you can do crammed into the front seat of your car listening to the rhythmic slap of the wiper blades.
About 5 o'clock in the afternoon of my final day there I sensed a lightening up on the western horizon and raced up to the top of Mt. Batty. It has a commanding view of Maine's historic Penobscot Bay.
I was hoping to see the sun burst forth and give me one big payback for putting up with such a miserable week for painting. That didn't happen, but I did get to at least see some serious touches yellow and orange in a few of the clouds. Working as fast as I could, I did a vine charcoal drawing and a soft pastel drawing of the scene. These were the basis of what would become the painting above.
The final painting was one that pushed the color intensity of my longed-for sunset well past what the actual experience offered up. Desire for warmth and light had stirred up memories of other times and other sunsets. I think what I was doing was painting my hope for a more kind and nurturing weather.
Paintings are about our experience of reality, but we traverse both the landscape of the earth and the terrain of our internal emotional life. Art can report on the reality before us, but it can also transport us to other places and offer us alternative feelings. Painters, equipped as we are with a highly trained imagination, might just be in the moving business for eyes and for hearts. Watch out FedEx!