Saturday, September 24, 2011

"An Illumination that Works," From Dawn of the Summertons: A Work in Progress

Nine miles away, in the northwestern section of the city, Twyla Summerton was trying to keep herself from rushing the painting she’d been working on for nearly a week. She had a yoga class at 9:00 in Chestnut Hill and then coffee and tea at Peggy Laughtons’. The painting was the last and best in a series of a school bus parking lot filled with banana-lemon vehicles lit just off their usual tone of gold by a pale blue sky amplified by hints of silver. “Like sun sparking against raw aluminum siding or an Airstream wall in a Texas summer desert.” The hard thing was not the bus shimmer in their banana shells. It was, indeed, the light. She’d spent a year playing with gold and yellow and white and silver. Her first instinct had been to try some version of Hundertwasser’s child-like strokes, the way you saw that he actually loved yellows like a child, but they all seemed cheap and shabby for her intent. She’d asked Reggie and Kristen both and they said they loved what she’d done. Reggie had even said, “Hunsucker or someone like that?” Their like was her dislike. They noticed it. That was not supposed to be the effect. You noticed it with Hundertwasser, but that was supposed to happen. He was scattering splinters of future in his work. She was searching for something less magical, more ephemeral, like the look of a girl clad in an ivory colored satin gown running through a field or down a hill in Maine. She’d tried to work in tans as well, thought they might make the white-yellow mix she’d been working with stand out, fresh with subtlety (subtleness?). But it didn’t work at all. She was wrong-headed about so much, she thought. But here she was now, ten minutes to leaving for yoga and she’d maybe found the effect she wanted and she didn’t even have time for a debate with herself about art versus the universe of things prosaic (or was yoga prosaic? Possibly, just a slight bit self-indulgent? Or maybe just overtly and unrealistically hopeful – like recycling or re-lamping with compact fluorescents).

She put down her brush and stepped back. All 187 buses rested as one grid of lamps to the eye; the light she had washed in gave that effect. To her, when she read about sustainable development or renewable energy, she felt just off in the future a world waited for them with a cartoon feel and utopian glimmer – and it all had to do with the light; the light will be different soon, she thought, promising and warm, touching our skin and imbuing us with the subtle change we need to live in that new world instead of this one. The parking lot there on the canvas was indeed touched by exactly the thing she’d sought (beginning to be touched, anyway). Perhaps time away, an hour of yoga, two hours of chat and gossip, and the time driving – my God, the time driving! – and then back again. If this feeling she had was still there after all that quotidian power, then she’d done it? Well, found it? An illumination that works, she thought, turning toward the door and the rest of her life, which was good and normal, though a bit more demanding than anyone could understand or might want to simply consider.

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