News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Mike Lunsford

March 8, 2009

The Off Season: Feeling the breezes in an orange sail

A few weeks ago, I stood in the hushed solitude of a darkened Swope Art Museum gallery and soaked in the warmth of Edgar Forkner’s “The Orange Sail,” a brilliant oil on canvas painted in 1932. I have been to the Swope many times, but I had never seen the painting before that day, one on which I had taken 11 of my students into town to see what we could see.

I know very little about painting, perhaps even less than I do about music and sculpture and architecture, for my knowledge of the arts comes mostly from reading books and sitting in appreciative audiences rather than through talent or intuition or training. But I do know what I like, and I liked Forkner’s color and the touch of his brush. After all, I don’t need to know anything about astronomy to appreciate the crescent moon I spied out my office window last night or require an understanding of climatology to enjoy the breeze that sifts through my maples’ leaves each summer.

I shifted my weight from foot to foot for a good 10 minutes as I stood before that painting, wondering, I guess, when I would see some hint of Forkner’s vivid green in my grass, some flash of his white in my magnolias, a bit of his yellow when it comes peeking through the ground in the form of a daffodil or two. When the trance I was in was broken by the laughs of a pair of my students, I headed off to see what they were up to and found not only the gigglers but also several more of my crew in the same state of reverie from which I’d just come. For them, it was painters Paul Jenkins or George Luks who played the role of hypnotist.

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