Monday, March 7, 2016

Illuminations 3.7.16

The Course of Empire...

... is a series of five paintings by American artist Thomas Cole. I find it beautiful, yet terrifying.

What's beautiful about these paintings is their form. Cole's use of color, texture, and point of view shift from painting to painting in order to capture the uniqueness of each state. For example, all the golden ships, statues, and drapes in Consummation of Empire actually seem to shimmer with a life of their own. Also, the sky in each painting has a way of capturing the drama- of reflecting what is to come.

What's terrifying about these paintings is their content- their blatant portentous nature. This is not entitled The Tale of an Empire. This is The Course of Empire- that which every empire must experience.

It's disconcerting to consider our place within Cole's framework of the lifespan of the empire...
It seems as though we are in the third stage- Consummation of Empire. Everything is shiny, golden, and beautiful... Until our inevitable Destruction, that is.

It's problematic to consider what it is that constitutes an empire...
Who is 'we' anyway??? We Americans? We Westerners? We Earthlings? Certainly there are still places in the world that are in the Pastoral State, or even the so- called "Savage" State. Actually, I think I would argue that it is precisely because of these people that the Consummation of Empire is at all possible. So, I guess 'we' are those who reap the benefits... and therefore the consequences..?

It's humbling to consider the temporal nature man...
Empires do not last. They are born when people come together for common goals. Though they may achieve great things, there is always an end.
Nature however, is everlasting. It may be disrupted by the course of the empire, but it never dies... Even in Desolation, Nature can be seen reclaiming...

Romanticism focuses on nature and idealizes the pastoral.

Cole is considered the founder of The Hudson River School, which was a movement of artists that focused on landscape painting, and Romanticism.
Cole was not a fortune- teller.
Who knows if he is right?

Perhaps there is a way for human beings to live in harmony with our surroundings.
Perhaps in doing so we can prolong, or even annul the latter two stages in Course of Empire.
Perhaps perhaps...

Note the sun in Desolation~~~
The way it gleams as it peeks out from behind that wispy drifting cloud.
Note the possibilities...

~ Clinton

1 comment:

  1. This was beautiful, but your analysis left me riddled with anxiety especially thinking about the Earth's present state...but it is awesome that you brought this to our attention while keeping us conscious of what's happening in the world. This isn't escapist art that's beautiful just for the sake of it (not that there is anything wrong with that) makes you think and I appreciate that.