Where there is much light, the shadow is deep.”- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
From high on the lift at the University of Wyoming Art Museum, I watch the endless play of shadow in this exuberant light-soaked space. It has turned my brain upside down and backwards, knowing that shadow has become as integral to Interstitial as the hot glue itself. I’m thrilled.
Funny, just a few days ago, I was fixated on how glorious the morning sun transforms the cascading strands into a rippling mass of sparkle and shimmer. Now I’m obsessed with the projections of squiggly strands—framed by those of the skylight beams. They appear as strange calligraphy begging to be deciphered.
Folklore, myth, psychology — they’ve all got their mitts on the shadow as symbol and signifier. And there’s scads of art history dealing with the aesthetics of shadow, beginning as far back as Plato’s commentary on the subject. Not surprisingly. The tiniest amount of light brings shadow to life, and once visible, it’s impossible to extinguish without squelching the light. Ubiquitous, they enchant, they mystify; yet rarely do we lean toward the shadows. Why is that?
If I were to call up my Jungian tendencies … but no.
More interesting to me are the sensual, visceral qualities of shadow, evoking tiny shivers of perception that relies on nothing more than intrinsic knowing. Like the fragment. Romantic poets and philosophers of the 19th century revered the fragment, not as remnant of an imagined whole, but for its unique wholeness.
Perhaps the intrigue of shadow might be that it challenges us to assimilate subtle variations of tone and density, the way beauty is often found hidden between the lines of a poem. In this way, could it be that nuance more actively engages us than lounging in the bright clarity of revelation? I wonder.