Since I first saw some of his work several years ago, I have been interested in Arthur Dove. Then later, in graduate school I looked at him more seriously and was amazed at the confluence of reasons that explained more as to why his work would/should interest me. He was a graduate of my same alma mater, he worked in Long Island, he was gentle and like a “babe in the woods” amongst the effetes of his time, yet he loved them as well as needed them. . . the listing goes on. Yet his visual work drew me in first, before I was aware of those other things. He was an American modernist who was serious, serious in his desire to use abstract language, rooted in that which is natural, to speak to that which is way beyond the natural.
Here is a piece of his I saw at the Phillips collection in DC (how I got there is another wild and crazy story, I was actually thinking I was going to Beijing with my husband that day and ended up at the Phillips collection in DuPont Circle). This piece stopped me. Maybe it was not the reason I got detoured in DC, but it became one of the reasons. Without even knowing it’s intended meaning it had a rich resonance for me. Dove called it “Rain or Snow” which confirmed what I was thinking. He was both indefinite and also clear in this title: it was some kind of falling, but it was a falling. And it is slow, measured and sadly beautiful. It was done in 1943. Think about what was happening then in the world of 1943, just pause and think about it! This also is 3 years from Dove’s own death and he was not well. But look at his gentle voice. wow.
I did a piece in 2005 that surprises me for its similarity to Dove’s work here. By the way, I can say that I am pretty sure I had not seen this particular Dove piece before this last month. It really did surprise me. My own piece is hanging right now at a gallery in Philadelphia. Mine is called “Lingering Moments.” It too is about a slow falling. It too involves pain and love, urgency frozen in a slow-motion moment.
As I write this, it is the 11th day of the 11th month at least in the way we count time.
My sense of things remains suspended like this ink work. There is beauty here (that I can say happened in spite of and way beyond intention and ability), but the beauty is wrenching and urgent. I think it is beckoning too. This is my sense of what happened on that piece of paper and what is happening even right now.