Sun Pillar, Pointe Mouillée Marsh
Painted en plein air on 2/15/21 at Pointe Mouillée State Game Area
In my painting, Sun Pillar, Pointe Mouillee Marsh, one of my primary concerns was to visually translate the emotions that I felt when I witnessed the sun pillar. One of the primary questions that I have received about this painting is, “did it really look like that?” In a way, it did. When I drove out to the tip of the marsh and looked out past the frozen swampy archipelago to icy Lake Erie, the hot orange sun peeked over the horizon and shot a warm beam of light straight up into the cold purple sky. At first, I was looking through my windshield and I thought I might have been seeing a glare through the glass, so I got out of my car to find the shimmering vertical beam of light still there. I had never seen this atmospheric phenomenon before and I didn’t know anything about it at the time. In the painting, I tried to depict the perplexity and awe that I felt while looking at the sun pillar as well as the feeling of being captivated by an unknown and dwarfing force of nature. What I found out later is that “sun pillars, or light pillars, are shafts of light extending from the sun or other bright light sources under the right atmospheric conditions. They’re caused by ice crystals drifting in Earth’s air” (Byrd, “What are sun pillars or light pillars?”). The pillar of light had dissipated before I had begun putting it down on canvas so I relied on my memory and my impression of what I had seen. In memory, objective realities lose their definition as they dissolve into one’s personal narrative. I tried to embrace the dreamlike veil that memory drapes over everything to pull out the sun pillar’s emotive qualities.