Tuesday, February 10, 2015

The Years of Wonder

For my contribution to the Art/Word show “Passages” at Lasell College in February of 2015, I painted and photographed the various elements separately, and assembled them in PhotoShop. The text (Art/Word pieces always have text accompanying them) is taken from E. B. White’s essay “The Years of Wonder,” about his experiences as a footloose young man on a charter voyage from Seattle to the Bering Sea and back. The text reads:

“Alaska was in the opposite direction from home, where I considered it unsuitable to be at my age...

“At six in the morning, I reported for work. This was the true beginning of the voyage for me; I was below at last, where the ship’s heartbeat was audible and her body odor undispersed.

“Why did I long to be below? I don’t know. I just remember that I did and that this descent seemed a difficult but necessary step up life’s ladder. The whole Alaskan experience was a subconscious attempt to escape from the world, to put off whatever was in store for me; the farther down inside the ship I went, the better the hiding place.

“No young man could have asked for a more direct exposure to heat, fumes, toil, and trouble. When I close my eyes these days and think of Alaska, the picture always comes to me in a round frame, for I viewed much of our future forty-ninth state through the porthole of the firemen’s messroom, and the picture has a special smell—a blend of cabbage, garbage, steam, filth, fuel oil, engine oil, exhausted air, exhausted men.”