Two days ago I stepped out at seven in the morning to pick up the paper on the porch and heard a cardinal singing its full-throated, succulent song. Spring! Puddles and melt and birdsong. Walking up to Bank Street later in the day, I skirted one puddle after another and in each one I saw the sky.
Snow began falling yesterday morning and this morning it’s still falling, the sort of spring snow that in Quebec gets called a broom because it sweeps away winter. I love weather, I really do. Spring puddles one day, a thick felt-like world of snow the next.
The most impressive thing I’ve seen this month, the thing that lingers more than any other, is an extraordinary lighthouse, full-sized, made, I thought at first, of canvas – the material had the texture of an old sail – and suspended at an angle on scaffolding, as if half-falling, and lit from within.
I saw it at the big Canadian art show at MASS MoCA, the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art in North Adams, a long way from here, seven hours by car. It wasn’t made of canvas at all, it turned out.
The artist had come upon an abandoned range light on Prince Edward Island and seen it as something she could cast with the help of a crew. They painted it outside and inside with six layers of rubber latex paint, then cut along the edges, peeled the latex skin away, sewed the pieces together and hung them, reassembled, in a large enough space that you could see outside and inside at the same time: the exterior imprinted with all its details of brick, wood, windows, graffiti, wear and tear; and billowing out the bottom, the interior in similar detail.
It’s one of the most beautiful and moving pieces of art I’ve ever seen. Kim Morgan is the artist. She lives in Halifax.
We live our lives in and out of the weather. We see so much that fails to register. And then an artist comes along and with one radical act of the imagination immerses us in the history of land and sea, in all that’s been lost and all that’s being lost.
“It literally marks the passage of time, but that time is over,” as Kim Morgan says of her lighthouse in the catalogue that accompanies the show.
She also manages the near-impossible by finding a way to say what is Canadian about her work. “Perhaps the Canadian-ness of it is making work that is not necessarily commercial and a memorial work that is not necessarily celebratory.”
Her lighthouse is a work of melancholy with a necessarily limited audience, but she is used to that.