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paradise meant no people

June 25, 2010

“The agonizing mystery of Infinity. It is impossible ever for man to comprehend it, but it is always there in the background of my life. Infinity in time and space; it is impossible to our puny minds, yet it has to be. I know that it should not concern me, that of more importance to me are the beauties of the world I know – the joy of sunlight on the glossy needles of hemlocks in early spring, or the flaming glory of a meadow of dandelions in bloom, the song of a songsparrow on a pussy willow branch hanging over a stream – yet there it is, eternally nagging at my consciousness.”

Charles Burchfield

[NYTimes] Summer, which can be hard in the city, could be heaven to the painter Charles Burchfield, the 20th-century mystic of American light. Because he spent most of his time in a leafy suburb of Buffalo, to him the season meant trees aureoled in noonday sunshine, afterglow skies as cool as the song of a thrush and gardens pulsing with the music of crickets in moonlight.

Yet he was never at ease. Even with nature he was tense and agonized. Early on, Burchfield concluded, as God once had, that Paradise meant no people, and he rarely painted any. He also learned that Hell was a society of one: himself. A natural ecstatic, he was also a chronic depressive: not a passive shut-down case, but a lamenter and yearner. “Oh God — How to get back there!” he wrote in his journal, “there” being childhood, innocence, home.

A mood-swing dynamic seems pronounced in the survey called “Heat Waves in a Swamp: The Paintings of Charles Burchfield” at the Whitney Museum of American Art, maybe in part because the show was organized by Robert Gober, the contemporary American artist whose own work mines the neurotic underside of the American psyche. Yet even while emphasizing certain aspects of Burchfield’s career, Mr. Gober gives us nothing but Burchfield himself. The peaks and valleys are all right there in the art. (read)

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. Randy Pena permalink
    June 25, 2010 8:54 am

    Just wanted to say HI. I found your blog a few days ago on Technorati and have been reading it over the past few days.

  2. June 25, 2010 2:34 pm

    Great image of Charles!

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  1. paradise meant no people « HOWEVER FALLIBLE | Artist News

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