On the Bridge of Sighs
As an architect, I am interested in how people move through space. Essential to this perspective is the passage of time. COVID-19 has brought us to a “new normal” and even beyond. This is uncharted territory for the world. Yet we persist, as individual travelers through this world, in sometimes diverse and sometimes conflicting ways. It has been suggested that the power of art is just “to be.” However, taken in the context of the passage of time, art as continuum can be about just being, in this ever-changing world…incidental, fleeting and complete. That is to say, life passing by, nothing more and nothing less.
As Edward Hopper asserted, “The sacredness of everyday fact.”
For many years I was most interested in painting with oil on canvas, and my work eventually trended toward incidental subjects caught in motion—“Painting En Passant.” For this approach, I found airbrush techniques, once relegated to photo retouching, to be well-suited for depicting the world moving before my eyes. I find it interesting when practical and commercial techniques such as airbrush, film photography and screen-printing, pass through a period of obsolescence, to later become available for making art. This, too, is an expression of the passage of time.
“…[E]ach individual has their own personal measure of time that depends on where they are and how they are moving.” — Stephen Hawking: A Brief History of Time
In this new world of screen-time, isolation and masking we have become ever more socially distanced. “Streets full of people, all alone”, as days meld into weeks… and then become months, having yet to regain a sense of timing, focus or perspective. We can see that there is a world of water, earth and sky beyond this present condition, but are prevented from reaching that world, by forces beyond comprehension.
Now all the more poignant than when initially painted, this image was conceived before COVID, as a testament to the workers who plug along faithfully day upon day. Here stands the iconic clock tower of Grand Central Station. Do its hands read 6:AM or 6:PM, as our essential workers emerge from the shadows, commuting from dawn to dusk, and from dusk until dawn?
I am passing through a covered bridge over an ice-choked river. Painted in mid-winter 2020 as the pandemic evolved, each week became more unprecedented than the week preceding. It is more so even now, that no traveler can be certain of what to expect upon emerging into the world that may await us, when we reach the other side.
Bridge of Sighs
With reference to the famous Bridge of Sighs in Venice, passing from the High Court, before descending into stone dark dungeons to serve out their sentences, convicted prisoners were allowed one final glimpse of the world beyond, through slit windows on the bridge. I have visited these dank dungeons. Finding this abandoned factory in Long Island City, NY also reminded me of a job that I once had working in Boston over the course of one long deep winter, and a bridge with its window that kept me going.
Copyright © 2021 C. Peter Erickson
A 1972 graduate of Syracuse University School of Architecture, Peter earned architectural registration in 1980 following extended travel from North Africa to Scandinavia, making drawings along the way. His experience includes boat builder, construction worker, architectural designer and Owner’s Representative for projects throughout New England. In 2019, he opened a studio in Williamsville, Vermont and continues to work out of his studio on Plum Island, Massachusetts.