The ancient city of Venice, Italy has inspired tourists and religious pilgrims for at least 2,000 years. The contrasting light and dark clouds in Lois Gold’s Venetian Light depict the canaled metropolis as it appears during a sunrise.
For centuries, seafarers watched the spire of St. Mark’s Basilica and its belltower pierce the horizon as they approached the historic trading hub. Smaller vessels float in the surrounding waters waiting to be warmed by the Sun. Blue skies reign as shops and attractions prepare for their daily influx of curious customers and local regulars.
But what is captured in a finite moment tells only a partial story. Venice, sadly, is sinking, and in the decades to come will founder under the insatiable waves of the Adriatic Sea. Soon, the cultural mecca in Gold’s painting and the rich history contained within it will exist as little more than a mere memory.
Mother Nature, like all organisms, has evolved with an unbreakable will to survive, yet its existence and viability as a biological domain remains imperiled. The invisible forces churning in Earth’s skies have been poisoned by the technologically sophisticated primates that have come to dominate the globe.
Patricia Finley's Elemental Force presents a glimpse into our Gaia's dynamic layers and serves as a reminder of the importance of ecological stewardship.
Gazing at it head-on evokes the transfixing scene that at which the astronauts aboard the International Space Station marvel as they orbit at 17,500 miles per hour. A cloud front creeps over the blue sea while its vaporous tentacles slow drift across the vast expanse as swirling white caps crest and trough atop the ocean’s perpetually evolving surface. Underneath, although unpictured, exists a Universe of countless lifeforms with whom we share our cosmic oasis.
Lurking on the Southern horizon of this idyllic and uncontaminated freeze frame is a menacing presence. From space, atmospheric fury appears as an opaque canvas over Earth’s surface, illuminated exclusively by sporadic blips of electrostatic discharge.
A storm is indeed encroaching, threatening to swoop in and disrupt the peaceful serenity that until recently was the defining trait of our tiny habitat. But the blackness painted by Finley in the work’s lower half heralds more than thunder and lightning. Rather, it serves as an indictment of humanity’s exploitative and merciless abuse of nature as well as a warning that we are no match for Earth’s defense of her delicate systems. And although squalls inevitably run their course and fade into the distance, Finley’s storm shows no such boundary, as if portraying the inevitable tumult we have locked into our collective future. This time, the beast is killing beauty.
There is no reason to despair, however, for hope has also been memorialized into Finley’s tri-color interpretation of the endless concatenation of nebulous moments that have persisted throughout time.
Perpetually massive mixtures of gases, flowing water of various densities, salinity, and temperatures, and Earth’s rotational momentum synergistically operate as the engine that powers the planet’s life-enabling environment. The living manifestations of these geophysical phenomena solidify Earth’s uniqueness among the countless, uncharted rocky bodies peppered throughout our Milky Way galaxy, and all of it began in the primordial, dark oceanic depths.
In Elemental Force, frothy and salty white foam tows a burbling swell generated by the oscillating abyss toward its final resting place on the sandy shore upon which the onlooker, a surfer perhaps, eagerly awaits its inevitable arrival and its fleeting presence.
Meanwhile, sunlight irradiates the veneer of the meandering comber, creating a tube of twilight that will extinguish itself at the instant of first contact with the coast. Although it will vanish forever, countless others will ebb and flow in its place long after our species of conscious observers has departed the physical realm.
How long will it be until Finley’s picturesque tranquility descends from inherent reality into nostalgic fiction? What anthropologically-induced hazards await in the decades and centuries ahead if the callous destruction of the only known place in the heavens that can support and sustain simple and complex creatures such as ourselves and our genetic brethren?
Finley’s thought-provoking painting contains a tantalizing clue.
Its familiar stillness along with its unadulterated stability implores human beings to clean up their act while foretelling a return to environmental normalcy if we opt to restore the sacred covenant between evolutionary intelligence and the responsibility to maintain our planet for its trillions of diverse inhabitants.
Like the surfer on the edge of the watery expanse, we can gaze into the beyond and imagine a peaceful and prosperous hereafter. Will we choose the paths of enlightenment and wisdom? Or have we strayed too far past the natural parity that exists between people and planet to fix what we have broken?
“The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand,” the late astronomer Carl Sagan famously stated. “It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world.”
Certainly, as Sagan eloquently added, Finley’s Elemental Force “underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we've ever known.”
Finally, Elemental Force's unfiltered portrait of Earth offers succor against the plights of infinite consumption and growth. Earth will nevertheless keep spinning and hurtling through the infinite emptiness with or without our continued occupation. What happens next is hitherto up to us.