Witness

May 21 st 2010

This is one piece from Herman's touring exhibit, Presence/Absence, concerning themes of a sense of place, "geologic time," and the environment and creation care. Several stops on the tour are collaborative with local land trusts and other charitable organizations, to whom 15% of the revenue of all art sales will go.

January 18-February 12, 2010 Hendrix College, Little Rock, AR
March 1-31, 2010 Roberts Wesleyan College, Rochester, NY
August 24-September 30, 2010 Wheaton College, Wheaton, IL
October 9-December 12, 2010 Cape Ann Museum, Gloucester, MA
January 5-February 5, 2011 Calvin College, Grand Rapids, MI


I live in Gloucester, on Cape Ann, a peninsula north of Boston, where the land has been scoured by the retreat of the great Laurentide glaciers over twenty thousand years ago, leaving behind a vast deposit of granite boulders and dramatic palisades along the Atlantic coast. Since first visiting the cape, I've felt a tug on memory and imagination by the raw beauty of the land, the sea and sky, and the ever-changing weather here. A tidal estuary at the end of our street, Walker Creek, marks time with its tides as it laps against the Great Ledge (a massive granite outcropping with a sheer seventy-foot drop, which itself marks a different time—geologic time).

T.S. Eliot (in "The Four Quartets," a poem inspired in part by his many summers here on Cape Ann) says:

          You are not here to verify,
Instruct yourself, or inform curiosity
Or carry report. You are here to kneel
Where prayer has been valid. And prayer is more
Than an order of words, the conscious occupation
Of the praying mind, or the sound of the voice praying.

After living more than thirty-five years here myself, and after walking these woods and coastlands almost every day of the year, in all seasons, there is a tidal pull for me to stay. Staying in one location all this time creates a constancy in the midst of change, a slowing influence and a growing sense of place. The ancient rocks and slow-growing lichens; the reliable coming and going of seasons and sea have set in motion something in me, even as I've remained.

I've tried and failed in countless times to capture this place in straightforward landscape painting, but like Eliot, I've discovered that I am not here to simply record or verify or instruct. I am here to pray, to witness. And I've tried to bear witness to something really impossible to articulate—even for a great poet, much less a painter of modest talents. What I find most compelling and most difficult to express about this place is a presence which marks our lives and this land, yet also a feeling of great absence—of eons and all living things passing. Yet beneath all the change runs a persistent hope that comes from this underlying permanence, this solid truth: the beauty of this place has its origin in a living God.

Topics: Arts
 

Bruce Herman, 59, is a painter, and Professor of Art at Gordon College, near Boston, where he is currently Lothlórien Distinguished Chair in the Fine Arts. Herman's artwork has been exhibited in over one hundred and fifty exhibitions in major cities in the United States (Boston, New York, Chicago, L.A.) and internationally (England, Italy, Israel, and Japan). His work is housed in many private and public collections including the Vatican Museums in Rome; Grunwald Center at Armand Hammer Collection; L.A. County Museum; Cincinnatti Museum of Art; and the deCordova Museum in Massachusetts.

Bio