Summer Squall White
‘Summer Squall’ is painted with incredible attention to detail, down to several delicate, reclusive butterflies and beetles that inhabit the vegetal shadows.
Peonies, roses and ranunculi play the lead role in ‘Summer Squall’. These full-blooming flowers hover over a middle ground of exploding foliage. It’s all in motion, beginning to stir with the oncoming passing of the season.
I created ‘Summer Squall’ between August 2014 and January 2015. The reference for the central peony was a photograph I took at the Floriade (an international horticulture show that takes place every 5 years) in ’s Hertogenbosch, NL in May 2014. The fascination of this flower, for me, is the sense of motion and rotation, as well as the intricacy and detail of the petals, delineated in subtle shifts of color.
As I worked on this piece, I almost felt that that flower was drilling into its ground, kicking up stormy winds all around it. It had an unstoppable force to it. Because of things that were going on in my life at the time, it became a symbol for me of the inexorable passing of time.
Unlike the prints I had designed previously, I had this one named almost from the very start.
I began work on it at a time when I was readjusting to ‘real life’ after spending a blissful three weeks with my parents, my husband and my three children in a quirky summer rental just a couple of miles from Horseneck Beach, in Southern, coastal New England, not far from where I grew up.
Since I expatriated in 2007, summers have been a particularly special time for me, when three generations of my family are in the same place, when my past, present and future convene on a New England shoreline. It’s a contrast to the rest of the year, when I spend my days in adopted surroundings and don’t often (ever?) feel this connected.
There’s a particular moment I was thinking of as I started work on Summer Squall. It was an evening in late July. I was sitting with my parents around a fire pit by a dock on the Westport River. We were, each of us, at distant points on an invisible circle, so far apart that talking was out of the question. The late afternoon light was fading and we formed a ring around my younger daughter, Juliette, who was dancing in the sand, circling the smoldering embers. She was jabbing at the air with a marshmallow stick and licking her tacky fingers. We had just eaten the quintessential summer dessert of s’mores … We felt content, complete.
It occurred to me that, as an adult, moments like these come to you coupled with the realization that you will have to let them pass, the way they must, on their inexorable journey from present to past. And the next moment waiting for us – the one in line for Security at Logan Airport, when we’ll all have to say goodbye and go back to our ‘real’ lives – is imminent. This moment will fade to memory like the flames in the fire pit, smoldering to ashes that take to the wind.
For me, that moment by the fire pit was the point of light that I took with me into the darkening days. It was the perfect white peony suspended above dark foliage. Behind that flower in full bloom, and behind that moment, the leaves were beginning to rustle with its passing …
Following that summer was a fall season, a year, a life in chiaroscuro, the darks more prolific, accounting for most of the time and space. And yet it was as if their only purpose was to direct us to the light.
We looked forward to the next summer, knowing it would come. After a period of darkness, the light would reach new heights.
Fittingly, I finished Summer Squall in January of 2015, in the heart of the dark winter, with Juliette, its muse, at my side.