Studio Notes

a pair of geese flew by; outside my studio window; i’m glad elephants don’t fly

Things don't stay the same

Nothing stays the same. Even valleys, mountains and canyons are always changing — from billions of years to within a few seconds. So why do we want to describe what we literally see before our eyes? Even visual documentary historians like Ken Burns take some creative liberties to present their stories and yet they are contextual and true. I recall reading somewhere online when someone asked Picasso if he considered his works realism, and his answer was yes. I think he said more than just yes, but I do not remember the source. Anyway, the point is this, what we see before our eyes are always changing and it is subjected to how we respond. If not by natural forces or ageing, then by our emotional responses to what we see, feel and hear at the moment. Each moment is always different from the previous moment. Things don't stay the same. Sometimes in a blink of an eye, you could miss an entire story.

My neighbourhood has changed since moving to Kennett Square in 2014, but I have never ventured outside to explore it early in the morning. After nearly four years of living here, for the first time I explored it early in the morning. When I went outside to explore, it would usually be during the afternoon, so I was quite familiar with how the sunlight draped across from the West. So this time I wanted to appreciate how the morning sunlight draped across the land, the trees, and people-made structures from the East. I wanted to see how the light during different periods of the day affects how I see and how I feel about a place. But I later realised that light is not the only thing affecting our perception of our sense of a place. Another dimension was added to my paintings.

On the previous day outside of worKS I met Kennett Square’s homegrown ceramicist Pam Lau. We chit chatted and she shared a bit of the neighbourhood’s history. worKS was once the neighbourhood’s garage and gas station, Benji’s Garage & Gas Station; a few hundred feet from worKS on the other side of the railroad tracks is Kennett High School Legacy Fields which once was a rose nursery, Yeatman Greenhouse, owned and operated by the Yeatman family. If you drive, bike or walk on Walnut Street heading towards Gran Sasso, you might notice a rose bush on the left side of Walnut Street bridge. That rose bush is likely one of Yeatman’s roses, a legacy to a once thriving flower industry in Kennett Square until the mushroom industry took over because it is more profitable. Undoubtedly the likes of Longwood Gardens, Winterthur, and Mount Cuba lost many of their backup local resources for their gardens.

All around within this square-mile city changes are always happening. Things don't stay the same. Some have happened over a period of two centuries of human habitation to just a couple of years. A couple of years ago I met one of the local residents who was an American slave descendent. His ancestors found refuge in Kennett Square because it was one of the Underground Railroad stops. Kennett Square is one of the historically important cities in American history but it was overshadowed by commerce, the mushroom industry. Yet they are all part of a colourful multi-layer history of Kennett Square. It is a square-mile city, but its history is deeper than it is wide. So when I step outside to paint, it is not only about how the light drapes across the land but it is also about its history. Learning a bit more of its distant and recent past have added to Kennett Square's sense of place.

It’s a beautiful morning in the neighbourhood. Could you be my neighbour?