Thursday, February 14, 2013
A Taste of Summer
Guest blogger Janna Singer-Baefsky is a Smith College student, class of 2015, with a major in Art History and concentration in Museum Studies. She is a Student Assistant in the Cunningham Center for Prints, Drawings, and Photographs.
Joel Meyerowitz. American, born 1938. Empire State, Windmill, 1978. Vintage chromogenic contact print. Gift of Nicole Moretti Ungar, class of 1982, and Jon Ungar. SC 2012:84-49
As the spring semester kicks into high gear, one thought is pulsing through every student’s mind: summer. As some scramble to finish applications for summer internships, jobs, and school, others are counting down the days until graduation or the first day of pure freedom. However, the piles of crusty brown salt-packed ice coated with a fresh dusting of clean, white snow are a constant reminder that summer is a long way away.
I had not caught the summer bug yet, until one afternoon at work. I came across a newly acquisitioned Joel Meyerowitz photograph. His piece, Empire State, Windmill, captures the very essence of the season and suddenly I was just as restless for some fun in the sun as my friends. It is not so much the main focus of the image itself – the windmill – that grabbed my attention, but instead what surrounds it: the wilting sunflowers, the clear blue sky, and the shadows from the trees.
Photographed in 1978, the image has now aged, coating the picture in a vintage hue which emphasizes the hazy atmosphere. The windmill blades sit frozen in the stagnant, hot summer air. Perhaps the streets are empty because the kids are in their last few days of classes, rushing through finals so they can play in the sprinklers, or maybe it is just too darn hot to move. Whatever the reason, we’ve all been there – that scorching summer day that starts at eight in the morning and carries through till the late evening.
That is beauty of Meyerowitz’s photograph. He captures a fixed scene from his time that is still tangible thirty-five years later. It does not just look like summer, it feels like summer. Staring at this work I can almost feel the sun on my face and a gentle warm breeze. And so as I sit in my scarf and sweater, awaiting the next snow storm but dreaming of bright summer day, I am comforted by the fact that it is never too cold for ice cream.
Thank you, Janna, for this taste of summer - and for the introduction to Joel Meyerowitz. I want to see more of his photographs and will look him up now.