As summer comes to an end, I find myself thinking about some of the season's finer qualities. Despite the sometimes-oppressive heat, there's something nice about the sounds of cicadas in the trees, delicious dinners cooked out on the grill, and the comforting warmth of summer nights. The smell and feel of summer nights have always held a bit of magic for me, as the heat begins to retreat and the evening sky starts to glow.
With school starting soon and autumn creeping around the corner, I'm getting ready to say my good-byes to summer...and what better way to do so than with a night of stargazing? Tonight is the peak of the annual Perseid meteor shower. It will best be seen late tonight and into the early morning, but if you watch carefully after dark, you might see a shooting star.
As you watch the vast expanse of sky, think about Vija Celmins' painting Night Sky #17 (2000) here at the Modern. The 31 x 38 inch painting realistically depicts a small pocket of space with almost as much splendor as the real thing. Celmins began painting the canvas with gesso, then added monochromatic grey oil paints before finally dotting her celestial plane with white paint stars. Somehow, despite its simplicity, the piece appears to have depth and brilliance.
Celmins seems to appreciate the innate splendor of the night sky, having chosen to depict it in all its glory. Its subject matter is likely one of the most universal (pun intended?), because it's so familiar to us all. Yet somehow, a starry night always seems able to provide many new opportunities for wonder – like the magic of a meteor seen in the warmth of a summer evening amongst friends and cicadas.