It's snowing outside my studio window as I write this post, but it's been a long time coming, this year. I'm told that this was the first nearly bare-ground Halloween in Fairbanks in 90 years. When we got our first snow of the fall, barely an inch, in mid-October, I started work on Daybreak in anticipation of the glorious views of the low sun from our front door that Dorli and I enjoy at the end of our trail runs all winter. We got a couple more inches of snow about ten days ago, while I was still working on the painting, and painting it felt like a celebration.
As I've noted before, in my fortieth winter since moving to Alaska, I do occasionally get just a tiny bit tired of the cold and the dark, but I have yet to ever see it start snowing and wish it would stop.
Evensong (A Golden Nightfall) is my latest painting to employ iridescent gold paint, in response to an invitation from Curator Elizabeth Eero Irving to participate in an exhibition next month that she's titled "Gold: The Northern Element." As I said about my three earlier paintings this fall that use gold, I would probably never have even considered employing it if I hadn't been invited to be in this exhibition, but the many extraordinary altarpieces we saw in museums and churches in Rome and Tuscany this spring served as major inspiration for me. The trick, as always with inspiration that comes from works of another era, is finding a way to respond that is both contemporary and consistent with my own way of painting.
As so often in my work, Evensong grew out of a combination of things I was reading, thinking, and feeling. Without knowing exactly why, I began the painting by treating the gold like falling snow, which would fill the canvas with its glints of light against the dark spruces and falling night. I didn't really know what it was about, but I was thinking of calling it A Golden Nightfall. Then, just this week, while taking a break from countless hours of enhancing the shapes of the tumbling, aureate flakes, I read an article in an older issue of the New Yorker about Thomas Cranmer and the 350-year old Book of Common Prayer. When I read author James Wood's description of a precentor's chanting Evensong in a British Cathedral, I realized more fully what the painting was about, and the full title came to me.