The Slant of Light
C.D.Rawicz East Hampton. 07/31/13 The Slant of Light Once more, the phrase popularized by Theodore Roosevelt, “Walk softly and carry a big stick” is working it’s magic on Eastern Long Island’s writing population. What writer could refuse an offer of five dollars and seventy-one cents, for each word written, freshly or recycled, minus 25 dollars for the entry fee. Okay, the soft magic of advertising, “You will be the best writer on Long Island” was working it’s magic on my mind already. I was still in doubt about “the stick”, the prize-money, but that was only up to when my wife got wind of it and said, “That’s Six Thousand Dollars! That’s half of our real state tax bill!” Faced with reality I started writing immediately. Setting aside that a big stick in Roosevelt’s mind probably meant a lever-action Winchester .405, his favorite hunting gun, the sentence deals with the issue of perception. Being perceived in two ways, benevolent and powerful, at the same time. But to be perceived in the modern sense is to be seen, and that brings us to the existence of light, in these case, the incomparable light of Eastern Long Island. The light! Many have tried their hand at it. Even that old guy Lucifer, whose name means, the bearer of light, got himself tangled into it. In the evening, when we sit on the Atlantic or Long Island Sound beaches admiring the luminescence of sea water, that is the result of luciferin, the name given to the biochemical reaction producing that light. From Ptolemy’s as well the Vishnu Purana writings of the Old, Old Times, Plank and Einstein in the last century, to today’s German scientist Christof Wetterich, tons of paper has been used writing on the subject of photons without any total agreement. And when agreement between the scientists is lacking one should turn to the poets to understand the essence of nature. “ When it comes, the landscape listens, Shadows hold their breath; When it goes, ‘t is like the distance On the look of death.” Emily Dickenson was not scientist, but as a poet she knew that without light, life would not exist. There is an agreement that what we see is what is reflected. That combination of bodies of land, beaches, bays and lakes, worked fields, and an accumulations of trees, all of them reflecting light in a particularly unique way, paves the road for our light sensitive artists, painters, photographers, sculptors, video artists, to flock to this island’s end. Many are the attributes of our portion of Long Island, but all need light to be appreciated. Twenty years before the roar of racing car engines reverberated on Main St in Bridgehampton, William Merritt Chase, one of the deans of American Modern Painting was teaching his art on Eastern Long Island. He was not the first one or the last, but being the founder of Parsons School of Design, he has seeded The Pond with a new style of creative thinking. Later on, also within the distant murmur of revived racing traditions, Pollock and De Kooning explored other, darker and deeper shades of our Peconic Bay’s light. We can be pretty sure, that the most expansive mansions in this part of the Long Island will become dust, but the art of Pollock, De Kooning, and others, many more contemporary, will be remembered together with the images of the Greek, Roman, and Renaissance artists. Our local roots are of realistic origins. As our predecessors, the Dutch and the English, and the later waves of immigrants, of Polish and Irish descent; we like things how they are. We’re pragmatists. We’re realists. But, fortunately, the consecutive waves of population expansion, brought with them this other kind of people; the dreamer, the absentminded, the something something, the artist, woman and men with imagination. Creating a new image, be it a painting, a poem or a story, a sculpture, and occasionally perhaps, a mechanical artifact, is the sublime act of being human. No other species can do it. And so, painters came here for the light. Sculptors find their inspiration as well, and we can enjoy their genius when we drive around. You may be looking at the row of grapes being nurtured into a stimulant of your imagination, when suddenly there it is! A tree, turned upside down, sculpted and re-imagined by a human hand to surprise and remind us that grapes may grow naturally, but art, including the making of wine, is a human endeavor. The South Fork may have exchanged their green crops for a real state bonanza, and the North Fork, their potato crops for grapes and vineyards, but with this exchange came also a need for more an important conversion, the patronage of arts and culture. The economical prowess of Venice, Florence, or Verona in the early thirteenth century Renaissance brought a new class of art patrons. The new local wealth is also creating new venues for local artists of all trades, with a multiplication of art exhibits, galleries, art fairs and yes, literary competitions. Even Jazz, the only uniquely American art form, perennially in survival mode, has gained good traction in these last years providing local musicians with opportunities while educating and expanding the afficionado base. Long before Nature allowed us to be what we temporally are, our first senses were that of touch and sound. It was indeed long before ears and eyes were formed. Perhaps they’re our most integrative systems; one hand may repose on your shoulder and you cringe, another hand does the same and your muscles relax. But then, hearing and sight developed, and one day our eyes opened, and Wow!!! The world was not only around us, but we could see it in front of us. And that, allowed us to manipulate it. It allowed us to create “New”. It also gave us a choice. To be true. These last questions are not in the range of this essay on the facets of our Long Island life style, but it does touch our artistic community. It’s only because we try to create new art, a true art, that we become genuine artist and not simply replicators of a status quo. Long Live Old Art, Long Live New Art, may it all have The Incomparable Light.