Friday, November 27, 2009

The Hopeful Symbolism of Wind Energy Technology in Art

Top: Kate Lupo, Middlebury College Art History student
Bottom: Morning Wind, 48 x 60 original oil by Marie Wise
"Kate Lupo is a senior Art History major at Middlebury College who is writing her thesis on the hopeful symbolism of Wind Energy technology in art, spanning from the Dutch Golden age to the present. In her thesis discussion, Kate is delighted to include Marie Wise's beautiful images of modern wind turbines. Due in May, the thesis will be a coalescence of Kate's passions for art and the environmental movement."
- Kate Lupo
I've had a lot of positive feedback since sharing that Kate Lupo, a Middlebury College art history student (seen above) interviewed me for her thesis on the symbolism of wind energy in art. During the interview we discussed many art topics, one of them that the depiction of windmills in art is not new. Kate knows much more about art history than I, and she explained that artists have painted windmills (and other industrial scenes) for decades. Although I'd never thought of it that way, I realized she was right. Artists have painted all sorts of industrial scenes for decades, Monet's railway station and Van Gogh's windmills being two examples.
Why then, we pondered, is it so difficult for people today to process the concept that an artist would choose to paint wind turbines in our modern age? I think it is because people have trouble making the connection between what they conceptualize in their minds as art, and what they see when they look at my paintings. True, they look at them intently, love the colors and politely tell me they've seen them [wind turbines] before. But sometimes a puzzled frown furrows their brow when they ask me why I paint them, or why I like them, or why I'm inspired.
Kate hit the nail on the head when she decided to delve into the concept of symbolism. Although my wind energy painting inspiration comes from direct observations of turbine parts and wind farm projects under construction, Kate understands that the real power of depicting wind energy in art is the symbolism. The symbolism of a solution to global warming. The symbolism of the myriad problems inherent in our country's electrical generation system. The symbolism of the political pressure to find more renewable energy sources. They symbolism of protecting the plants and animals in our world.
Specifically, Kate found inspiration in my painting Morning Wind - seen above. In Morning Wind I included a heron in the foreground as a means of uniting the composition. Kate thought I had included the heron as a symbolic statement, and explained that herons are associated with the bible as symbols of resurrection, regeneration, and renewal. More about herons symbolism. I had no idea herons had this kind of meaning, but in context it makes sense, and seems to give this painting a much more powerful meaning. Maybe that's why so many people like it. Subconsciously they associate it with regeration and renewal! Thanks to Kate for opening my eyes to this concept!
Kate promised to share her thesis when she is finished, and I hope to share it with you (with her permission). In the meantime, if you'd like to contact Kate she's at She attends Middlebury College, a liberal-arts school in upstate Vermont with an enrollment of 2,400, according to a recent article in Time Magazine. The article says its considered one of the greenest schools in the U.S.
The article also says that college president Ronald Liebowitz has pledged to make the college carbon-neutral by 2016, and is well on the way. Earlier this year the school opened a $12 million biomass-gasification plant that uses wood chips from nearby forests and mills. The plant has already cut Middlebury's carbon footprint 40% and reduced fuel costs. But Liebowitz believes the real benefit of going green transcends the bottom line. "This is one of the highest priorities for the country," he says. "It's key for colleges to take the lead and push the envelope. We need to give something back to society." That attitude has put Middlebury at the head of the pack.
It looks like Kate's on the right track, and so is her college!

1 comment:

Celeste Bergin said...

My brother in law went to Middlebury. great school!
interesting post..I enjoyed reading it.