Horizons and Emily Carr

For some year now, Ron and I have been talking about the possibility of getting a little cottage someplace not too far from our home, where we could nip off to from time to time and get away from things. So far, we haven’t found the right place. Which leads to question, of course, what is the ‘right’ place?

I have realized over the years that my psychological requirements have changed. I used to want a place nestled in the woods, surrounded by trees, with a winding path through the forest on which I could meander and ponder stuff. I still love forest walks, although the truth of the matter is that I’m less enthralled with the insect life during the hot months than I used to be. I still far prefer snowshoeing through the forest in the still midwinter than having to endure the noisy, frantic carnival of ski slopes, but I think living in humid New Jersey has cured me of the mid-summer forest stroll. Ticks. Mosquitoes the size of Buicks.

But it’s more than that. I have always been drawn to the wind-swept lonely places, and I have come to crave horizon more and more. I wonder if this is a function of age?

Emily Carr (you can find a biography here), one of my favorite artists, had a long career as one of Canada’s most influential painters, greatly inspired by First Nations people of her native British Columbia. If you are every able to see one of her exhibitions, I strongly encourage you to do so, but in the meantime, you may wish to take a peek at THIS site.

I recall an exhibit of Emily Carr’s work I saw some years ago in Toronto. The exhibit tracked, among other things, how her perspective changed over the years. She began painting and sketching the shapes she found in the forest, close to the ground — the rocks, roots and swells of earth.

Of this period, she said, “I was not ready for abstraction. I clung to earth and her dear shapes, her density, her herbage, her juice. I wanted her volume, and I wanted to hear her throb.”

And then, as the years passed, she found herself painting the middle sight-lines. Such as this painting entitled Wood Interior (1909) in which light, but no sky, is visible:

Later, her perspective move upwards to include not only the mid-point, but the upper reaches. She included more sky, as in this painting from 1930, entitled Totem Forest.

And then, paintings like this one, Above the Trees, (1939) begin to appear:

And this one, Scorned as Timber, Beloved of Sky, 1935:

Emily Carr wrote a single entry in her journal on December 5, 1934, “I heard a real love story last night. Sex and materiality left out. Big,wide, unselfish love, very beautiful, a love outside of our word ‘love.’” (Crean, 2003, p. 92)

Perhaps that’s why we crave horizons — that metaphor for Big, Wide, Unselfish, Love.

Copyright 2008 Lauren B. Davis For permissions: laurenbdavis.iCopyright.com

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