The project After the Storm, now in E-Moderne Gallerie in Philadelphia, by the paintings of the wonderfully talented Chantal Westby, is one of generosity. We should think of it as golden, for the remarkable luminosity of the paint, of the light, of the vision, comes through metaphorically, as well as materially, as that kind of radiance. The gold of wisdom, and also of sunset and sunrise, as in one of these paintings, where a bare branch stands for so much: for the terrible devastation of, Haiti after the earthquake which set much of the listening and looking world tremble, for the intense (if often fruitful) loneness of one figure in the landscape or skyscape, and for the wood of the forests being cut down for necessary living, after such terribleness.
But those bare branches, that rise of a twig we have to imagine a potential tree, in some future we have to work for, convey, perhaps musically, a hope. The possible recreation of a spiritual, mental universe is visible through the pictured French window, like a door that has to be walked through to be really seen. As if much were to be read backwards, after this devastation, a hope that might not have
been even envisioned before the dreadful event: here are children, in a row, on a bench, ready to learn and then to teach – the wood for the bench grown useful – with one innocent face turning around toward an artistic source, and all of it risen into a fluid skyward medium not necessarily defined in any category, simply there.
The vision offered, of a “fifth dimension,” shines out and in with a beauty somehow transmitted from that of the painter to her work. And such a seeing is enough to bear out the hope, quite like the circle of children and art forming to celebrate the ongoingness of something moving – moving, physically and emotionally: “émouvant” -- toward the good. In the universe and it may be also in ourselves if we learn to look. That is, of course, the golden promise, the “commitment,” as one painting is entitled, and it includes, always, that “azural blue” of the sky. Forever.
Mary Ann Caws, August in New York City,
for Philadelphia, that city of love