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Friday, December 19, 2008


Painting by David Grath

Waking this morning from a dream of antique stereopticon slides and an old charter fishing boat renovation (the connection was vague in the dream, too), for some reason I started thinking about books in terms of warm and cold. Sarah, realizing I was awake, came to tell me she needed to go outside, and my train of thought did not get much farther, but the idea is that setting is not the deciding factor, nor is genre. A book might be tragic or comic, set in the Arctic or in New Orleans, be a murder mystery or a multigenerational epic, and those facts about it would not tell you what you would only get from reading it. Maybe, like beauty or color, the temperature of a book is as much in the reader (the beholder) as in the story. Does this make any sense? Do you have a favorite book that is blanket and fire to you all in one? Have you read a book that chilled you through and through, regardless of its subject matter? Not necessarily chilled you with dread—it might lower your own internal thermostat like a cooling breeze. I don’t know if this idea will go anywhere, but I’m throwing it in the ring.

The image today is one of my husband’s paintings, a view of South Fox Island seen from the Leelanau peninsula. It was a comment from yesterday that made me think of posting this image. The person commenting wrote that the way I feel about doing photography is the way she feels about painting, and I guess that goes for me, too, and is the reason philosophy of art was so painful to me. I’m more than willing to analyze arguments, but please don’t ask me to analyze art! Immersion, identification, not intellectual distance, please! This painting warms me.

Besides photography and painting, sometimes for me—when I am far from home and have no obligations—there is drawing, approached in the manner of Frederick Franck as meditation.


dmarks said...

I have a bunch of stereoview cards. I wonder if these are the same as stereopticon cards. I don't have any viewer, though.

P. J. Grath said...

The cards were stereoview (
The stereopticon, or “magic lantern,” projected photographs from glass slides slides ( but did not generate 3-D images. The slides in my dream may exist nowhere in reality. They were in pairs and mounted in antique eyeglass frames. For some reason they were called (in the dream) “ornaments,” and other non-pictorial ornaments were mixed in among them. Dreams—go figure!

Anonymous said...

My aunt had scenes of Vancouver, Cannes, and Yellowstone on stereoview cards. As I recall, each card framed a pair of transparent "positive" images. Looking at the card through its wooden holder generated a 3-D image. I used to have a kiddie version along the same lines. The 3-D viewer looked like binoculars. The photos were arranged on a cardboard disk. Each disk contained something like 8 or 10 scenes. My favorite was Disney's Snow White.

Goodness, I digress. I intended to say that I admired David's painting. South Fox looks like Brigadoon, floating in the imagination. Warm indeed.

P. J. Grath said...

Well, there was that great little cheap plastic toy from the 1950's called Vue Master. My sisters had it, and I never tired of looking at those 3-D stories. Is that the kiddie version you remember, Gerry?

Once I visited a show of giant photograph reproductions at the Grand Palais in Paris. They were maybe eight feet high (if I remember correctly), mounted on the walls in pairs, and to get the 3-D effect the fewer had to stand with his or her nose right on the point of a wedge wall that allowed each eye to see only one picture of the pair. It was mesmerizing. Like looking through binoculars, indeed, seeing the world in successively distant planes. Love it!

Anonymous said...

Vue Master. That was it.

I'm intrigued by the Grand Palais exhibit you describe. Must tell Cheri Leach about this. It would be perfect for Raven Hill.

P. J. Grath said...

Well, Gerry, the exhibit I was talking about was at the Grand Palais in 1987!