I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how the landscape shapes us. How the weather, times of day, and the flora and fauna of each scene — be it real or painted — say something about our frame of mind and the things that define us. Landscapes certainly have been an important part of my life up to this point! I wrote my dissertation about the intersection between nationality and landscape painting in Poland in the 1800s; I paint 1970s sci-fi-inspired landscapes; and Wisconsin marks the fifth U.S. state where I’ve lived.
When I first visited the Woodson Art Museum in September to interview for the curator of collections position, I was struck by John Felsing’s Ghost in the Twilight, now on view in the Avian Celebrations exhibition. The artist paints the twilight in such warm tones. The whole landscape is awash in the golden glow of the setting sun, the slip of stream glinting rosily under its last rays. In shadowed tree boughs, an owl coasts on silent wings. Felsing paints the owl in one dynamic, suggestive brushstroke of black paint — an expression of the artist’s painterly sensibilities within the landscape.
Spending more time with the painting since I began at the Woodson in early November, it hit me. The painting looked like those I studied for my dissertation — the depth of expression suggesting an intimate moment deeply tied to the appearance of the land itself. Yet more than that, the subject of twilight felt especially well-suited to my own mindset and time in my life.
Twilight — in our daily lives and for me in Ghost in the Twilight — exists as a space in-between. It’s a transition period when the last of the daylight is not yet gone, but the night has yet to fully descend on us. This sense of in-betweenness has always felt like a space to play with new possibilities, and a space that gives one time to think.
Starting at the Woodson feels like a type of twilight. For an art historian, its impressive collection and vivacious, involved staff makes this Museum a space awash with new possibilities. Like Felsing with his owl, I hope to be able to “paint” my own mark within its frame.