Lux Nova and Grande Generations
By Tom Wachunas
“Aging is not ‘lost youth’ but a new stage of opportunity and strength.” - Betty Friedan
“Age is…wisdom, if one has lived one's life properly.”
- Miriam Makeba
“Youth is the gift of nature, but age is a work of art.” - Stanislaw Jerzy Lec
If you missed the announcement and unveiling of Patrick G. Buckohr’s latest public art work, here’s a link to the June 18 Repository article to provide some background.
What I find most striking about this work of free-standing figural sculpture is how - amid all its lavishly modern materiality (galvanized steel bands and tubular rings framing 799 recycled colored glass beer bottle bottoms) – it resonates powerfully with some very old ideas about the efficacy of light and color to generate spiritually loaded sensations for the viewer. I don’t mean ‘spiritually’ in reference to a particular religious practice or doctrine necessarily, but rather in the broad sense of an emotionally elevating aesthetic experience.
That said, there certainly is the evocation of stained glass church windows. Lux nova (new light) was the 12th century term that described the ethereal effects of light filtered through those magnificently colored windows of Gothic cathedrals – windows that were intended to focus attentions on sacred narratives. On a purely formal/structural level, Buckohr’s sculpture recalls, in its abstracted way, the intricate craft of fitting shapes of colored glass into a network held together then by lead strips (called cames) and composing them like pieces of a puzzle. And at its conceptual core, his elegant work does indeed tell an important story – that of our elder citizens transferring and releasing the wisdom gleaned from their life experiences to their children.
The sculpture remained vivid in my mind for several hours after seeing it during the daylight unveiling on June 22. During those hours, there was a persistent, uncanny sort of prompting that resulted in finding the following quotes that harmonize with what I was sensing shortly before nightfall on that day. Here they are.
“People are like stained - glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within.” - Elisabeth Kubler-Ross
“Each of us is carving a stone, erecting a column, or cutting a piece of stained glass in the construction of something much bigger than ourselves.” -Adrienne Clarkson
“We must shine with hope, stained glass windows that shape light into icons, glow like lanterns borne before a procession. Who can bear hope back into the world but us...” - Marge Piercy
The prompting didn’t stop there. I found this, from Abbot Suger, who articulated the beginnings of the Gothic aesthetic in France during the 1130s: “…Bright is the noble work; but being nobly bright, the work should lighten the minds, so that they may travel…”
Travel indeed. I went back that night at 10:00 on a twenty-minute drive to see the sculpture illuminated. While such a modest investment of time and miles may not merit being called a pilgrimage in any large sense, it was nonetheless a necessary final step to fully embracing the beauty of Buckohr’s vision. Its luminous chromatic glow is breathtaking, and speaks lovingly of reverence, celebration, and inspiration.
What was old is new again.