Wednesday, September 20, 2006

When Maxfield Parrish Paints Your Sky

The other evening the colors of the the sunset reminded me so much of a Maxfield Parrish painting. Maxfield Parrish-- now that's a name straight out of the past. There was a time in the late 60s and early 70s when posters of Parrish's most famous paintings were tacked up on everyone's walls. (Or did I just imagine that? It's quite possible that I did.)It had been a long time since I thought of those colors, that other-worldly palette. But when I looked out the window, the sky reminisced with me about an old painter's paintbrush and vision, and convinced me that there really were such shades of light and dark, that luminescence, to be found for a moment somewhere on earth.
For some reason, while I thought about Parrish, I was suddenly reminded of the music of Ravel, Debussy, and Satie. It actually took me a while to remember why I was making such a connection. In 1973 when I drove across country with my boyfriend (Michael D.), he had made several tapes of music for the trip. We listened to Pavanne for Dead Princess, Reverie, L'apres-midi d'un faune, and Gymnopedies through the country's great wide midwest. I can still picture the skies of Kansas and Missouri, and hear these beautiful orchestrations interspersed with Van Morrison singing Astral Weeks and Madame George. Michael had found a small print of Parrish's Daybreak and made it into a cover for our most beloved tape.
I love how memory can be stirred like this by sky and music. How the colors of a sunset, those clouds stained like a Parrish print conjures a 1960 white Chevy pick-up truck with a homemade wooden camper, barrelling down the interstate with improbable classical music crackling from ancient speakers.

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