(HOST) It may seem a little odd to be thinking about winter after the heat of the past few days. But commentator Anne Galloway says that, recently, she had a good reason to do just that.
(GALLOWAY) When the end of April arrives, we Vermonters just want to put winter behind us. By May, we want to get down to the business of gardening and lawn mowing. But this year, a partic- ularly long, cool spring made outdoor work feel frustrating, even futile.
Still, when summer does come, it’s hard to imagine that winter ever was. In Vermont, these two seasons are such diametric opposites that I find myself immersed in one or the other, fully capable of believing that the maples will never spread their leaves or that the snow will ever fly again. I suppose that’s why even thinking about snow pack, drifts, blizzards or flurries this time of year is anathema. My mind is set on green pastures, lilacs in bloom and ripening berries.
But I had good reason recently to think about winter in a calm, abstracted way that had nothing at all to do with the practical concerns of that relentless 12-month-a-year occupation of getting ready for winter. I didn’t pick up winter hats on sale, price tickets at our favorite ski area or even chuck last season’s leftover fire- wood down cellar.
Instead, I went to the Robert Hull Fleming Museum in Burlington to study an oil painting by Eric Aho that makes the winter landscape seem like a distant dream. “Snow Field” depicts a moonlit scene, a blue expanse that rises upward toward a wall of black shadowy shapes – perhaps evergreens in a hedgerow, or the edge of a for- est. A pool of white light shines like a beacon in the foreground.
I felt slightly disoriented by Aho’s winter world, where every living thing is covered by a blanket of snow. There is no sky in the painting; instead the field is cast in an eerily opaque periwinkle blue – a reflection of the sky. The only substantial area of white in the painting is that circle of light – moonshine bouncing off the snow.
The moon is, in fact, the only source of light for “Snow Field”. The painting is part of a series of nightscapes and a larger body of abstract landscapes of the Connecticut River Valley that Aho has been working on for more than 15 years. He created “Snow Field” in 1994.
Aho, who lives in Saxtons River, has established himself as one of Vermont’s most important landscape painters. Through subtle use of color and perspective, he creates dramatic, abstracted interpre- tations of places without people, or even any sign of human exis- tence. Aho’s paintings are of lonely, open vistas crowded only by clouds or mountains.
What I find entrancing about “Snow Field” is the way in which it makes the barren beauty of winter seem so real and yet so far away. Once in a while, it’s good to look at winter as though it happens to someone else.
I’m Anne Galloway of East Hardwick.
Anne Galloway reports on the visual arts for The Times Argus. She spoke from our studio in Montpelier.