Saturday, October 25, 2008

Light and Space

If I were 20 now, if I had the chance to do it all over, to start all over again, I would probably go into architecture school.

I am constantly, vividly, viscerally aware of how light and air fill an enclosed or an open space. The way natural light moves on a surface, or in a room, is transcendently beautiful, with no other adornment. A bare wall, at the right angle to the sun, is beautiful all day long. Reduced to its purist forms, architecture is a container for light, and thus for spirit.

Santa Fe, NM

I might also work in interior design or landscape design. The goal being to create spaces for contemplation, quietude, meditation. I create these spaces for myself, most recently in my new home; I also gather them to me, as memories, in many places I've traveled to, or visited.

I like natural materials. I like wood surfaces that have been weathered by sunlight, rain, and time. White sunlight on grey cedar shingles. Light rain on whitewashed wood. I like the pure solidity of reinforced concrete, but also the aesthetic of chaotic weathering. A rust stain below a steel pipe on a concrete wall has spirit. Skin on stone.

Temperance River, MN

The color white, in design and architecture, is not a void. it contains all colors, and reflects them all. It responds to the changing light throughout the day and night. A whitewashed building on a Greek island's high hill. A white picket fence. A white chair under spreading trees. A white canvas tent on a high mesa after a light snow.

camp, Arroyo Hondo, NM

I like reflections. I am not found of mirrors, but I love windows, pools of water, glass, wet stone, and the they way they all reflect light. If I were to design a terrace, I would have inset lines and curves of moving water channeling through the stone pavements; narrow enough to be easily stepped across, but wide enough to reflect the sky. I once had a dream in which I was on a terrace made of red desert stone, into which had been incised narrow channels through which water was flowing, reflecting the clear blue sky with small white clouds; the overall shape of pattern was a labyrinth.

dawn, Flambeau River, WI

I like light to come through. Skylights over shower stalls in a high-roofed bathroom. Small rectangular windows at odd places in corners and clerestories. I have a photographer's eye for light—I have noted more than once that I am aware that many of my landscape photos are really photos of the sky—and if I applied that to a building, or a public space, light would always be getting in. Light-pipes to underground subway stations.

Taos Plateau, NM

We divorce ourselves, without imagining the consequences, from the natural cycles of night and day. We use artificial light even where we don't need it. We use harsh, direct light, because we imagine it to be more efficient and illuminating, simply because it is direct. We create enclosed spaces, indoors, all too often to block out the outdoors, the natural light, perhaps to prove our dominion and control over it.

adobe building, NM

Night finds a way to get in, no matter what. A single lamp is better than a brightly-flooded room. A candle in the right place, reflecting off the walls, is better lighting than a row of flourescent lights. We don't honor the dark enough. The shadows in a room, at night, are as important as the objects and angles that make them. They're very much alive.

Taos, NM

If I were 20, and had it all to do over again, I would probably go into architecture.

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Blogger Jim Murdoch said...

I tried 'dawn, Flambeau River, WI' but 'Taos, NM' finally made it as my new desktop picture. No great surprise there as Magritte's 'The Empire of Lights' is one of my favourite paintings.

6:16 AM  
Blogger Art Durkee said...


Yes, I know the Magritte well, it's a lovely piece. The title I gave that photo, originally, was Szyzgy. I look for those kind of alignments.

12:04 AM  

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