31 Days of A Sense of Place :: Day 13 ~ Since Feeling Is First

A sense of place(2)Welcome to Day 13 of 31 Days of A Sense of Place.

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It’s fun to look at the Hudson River school landscapes, Neil Welliver’s landscape paintings depicting Maine woods and waterways, Andrew Wyeth’s rural landscapes set principally in Chadds Ford, PA, and Maine, Gary Ernest Smith’s western rural landscapes, Edward Hopper’s empty-feeling rooms and scenic paintings, and at so many other paintings for the “sense of place” evoked by paint on canvas.

And to gaze for a bit at photographs like Dorothea Lange‘s of migrant farm workers in the Depression, David Plowden‘s photos of vanishing Iowa, Ansel Adams‘ iconic western U.S. panoramas, and notably those in the American Guide Series, the tour guides commissioned in the 1930s for the WPA Federal Writers Project — and to feel the mood, the sensibility, the place at that time. (The WPA guide books are not all available online for free, oddly, since they were taxpayer-financed, but some are, like Montana‘s and Delaware‘s; and many have been republished).

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Here’s an exercise we could do anytime with a photo that lends itself to this, to strengthen our imagination, cultivate sensitivity to place, notice how we feel when looking at and imagining actually being part of the landscape or other setting:

  • Look at the photo.
  • List some of the objects or activities in the photo.
  • What are the textures, colours, positive and negative spaces (subjects and space around subjects), relationship between objects or beings, facial expressions if any people are in the photo?
  • Complete these sentences:
    • This place looks (smells, sounds) like …
    • This place reminds me of …
    • If I were in this place, I’d feel …

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Below are a few of my favourite photos with a strong sense of place — at least, they feel that way to me, but part of the idea of sense of place is how the place feels to the perceiver, the experiencer, the meaning we attribute to it because of our connections to that place, to other places, as well as our life experience, our prevailing mood, and other individual factors, plus qualities inherent in the place itself. So, see what you think and feel looking at these uncaptioned photos:

cemeterynearDenverCOJan2004

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floridawintermorningfeb2007

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boardwalkpaththroughgrassestoobservationdeckLaudholmWellsME20June2015

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SJCcampuscAnnapolis12Dec2014

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provincetownoct

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memphislorrainemotel112006

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lenoxshakespeareandcohouseb

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oursilhouettesinfieldJacksonTrailTAMWeybridgeVT28Nov2013

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ArtistPaintPotsatGibbonMeadowsYNP20Aug1992

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wonderwellpartofmeditationroom19Feb2012

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viewtowardSanFranciscofromOceanBeachJan2004

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timessquarec29June2012

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TempleofDendurwithpoolMetropolitanMuseumofArtNYC22March2013

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The title for today’s posting comes from an e.e. cummings’ poem:

since feeling is first

since feeling is first
who pays any attention
to the syntax of things
will never wholly kiss you;

wholly to be a fool
while Spring is in the world

my blood approves,
and kisses are better fate
than wisdom
lady i swear by all flowers. Don’t cry
—the best gesture of my brain is less than
your eyelids’ flutter which says

we are for each other: then
laugh, leaning back in my arms
for life’s not a paragraph

And death i think is no parenthesis

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Thanks for checking in. Be sure to see what the other 31 Dayers are writing about.

*a sense of place(1)This project is a bit like Wallace Stevens’ poem Thirteen Ways of Looking At A Blackbird, in that I’m writing about a sense of place from vantage points that may not obviously connect with each other. I’m not going to attempt to tie them together. In the end, these 31 days of looking at a sense of place may overlap, contradict, form a whole, or collapse like a flan in a cupboard, as Eddie Izzard would say. That remains to be seen. Thanks for stopping by.

One Comment on “31 Days of A Sense of Place :: Day 13 ~ Since Feeling Is First

  1. Pingback: 31 Days of A Sense of Place :: Introduction | A Moveable Garden

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