Post #1248 • October 27, 2008, 4:30 PM • 11 Comments
We spent the weekend in beautiful Gloucester visiting our friend Ed and taking in the sights. I lived for a year in Southern California, and while I like to think that the ability to find inspiration in one's surroundings rests within oneself, SoCal never made me want to run back into the studio to paint. Gloucester did. Boston does. SoCal, nah.
Of course, there were any number of scrumptious bikini-clad Californian specimens who would have made fine studio subjects in their own right, but that's a different kind of thing. And there was one time when Supergirl and I were walking along the ocean at Long Beach, and a gaggle of children at Junior Lifeguard Camp were drilling their drills in identical navy blue bathing suits and red rubber bathing caps. It was like a scene out of a Piero, translated to a setting where surfing is high culture. But by then we were driving out of town for good. Our half-baked plans to settle in Los Angeles and make a living by painting seascapes peopled with tanned blondes riding longboards would soon disappear into the rearview mirror.
This must be partially my own shortcoming. There's a fine school of California Impressionism that is not inferior to its counterpart in, say, Russia. But for whatever reason the bloom came off the rose by the time that quintessentially French impulse went too far around the globe; Prout's Neck wasn't too distant, but Laguna Beach was, to say nothing of Moscow. Nevertheless I'm troubled by the notion that had I looked more deeply into the surfers' hearts I might have seen what Millet saw in his farmers.
But here in New England, I don't have to strain. The soul of the place jumps right out of the clapboard, the turning leaves, and the blue autumn sky. The leaves are always lemon, pumpkin, scarlet, and cranberry - they only appear verdant before the tree ceases its manufacture of chlorophyll for the year. What we call turning is really a refrain from toil. There's a lesson here about the production of beauty - the necessity of timing, effort, and place to come into rightness.