Dome, Lick Observatory
Robert Winter, 2005

Acrylic on Stretched Canvas
30" x 40"

Giclee Print:   $750
On Sheet Canvas, Unframed

Framed Original:   Not currently for sale



Artist's Notes

This dome struck me as something not entirely earthbound.  It almost looks like some kind of flying saucer touching down to Earth.

The extremely deep blue of the sky also hints at the darkness of space, while the arcing shape of the most brightly illuminated section of the dome suggests the orbiting path of a comet, or some other celestial body.

Space is known for sharp contrasts in temperature, depending on whether sunlight is striking an area.  Looking at the contrast between the hot colors that are in full sunlight and the cold ones in the shade, you may be able to almost feel the sun baking your skin on an otherwise cool, crisp morning--and perhaps gain a fresh appreciation of how the Earth we live on is, after all, an object in space, no less than an asteroid or Saturn or Neptune.

In my brushwork on this painting, I deliberately played up the contrast between the finished, precise, technological-looking surface of the dome, and the more raw splats of paint in the foliage of the trees.  I think of one as abstract and scientific;  the other, more earthy and alive.  Yet as the patterns of light on the basically domed shapes of the foliage reveal, trees, like the observatory, are ultimately also all about capturing energy beamed out from a star across the gulf of space.

The sense of void is also something I strove to emphasize. There's a brilliantly illuminated and detailed section of skin on the dome, but the rest of it is an essentially spacelike, featureless void. The trees are depicted in basically the same way. For me, this has to do with an insight that many of us first stumble upon in high school science, when we're studying the building blocks of matter, and we're shown atoms looking like miniature solar systems, and we suddenly realize that even something as dense as iron or lead is, in the end, mainly empty void.

The small bits of matter that somehow make something out of what is predominantly nothingness....

The even more rare bits of living matter that make up trees as well as ourselves, and enable us to glimpse the grand spectacle of it all...  

If I've been able to impart even the most primitive sense of these things in the painting, I'll feel like I've done my job.

(Now if I could just dislodge a tune that's gotten stuck in my head:  "Good Morning, Star Shine," from the musical, Hair.)


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