From Luminous Shade is a moving testament to the restorative power of art. Three artists mourn the untimely passing of their sons: Vermont painter Margaret Kannenstine, Italian poet Giuseppe Ungaretti, and poet and translator Ann McGarrell. We journey with them from their numbing plunge into despair, through the dark months, and finally into sunlight. Kannenstine’s dramatic landscapes, reflecting a year’s seasonal change, are coupled with Ungaretti’s poems in McGarrell’s translated interpretation, delicately exploring the depths of his love and loss.
To grieve publicly is a courageous act. These artists have peeled away a protective layer to share their very private wells of despair. Healing comes slowly. Through painting and poetry, Kannenstine, McGarrell, and Ungaretti reach out to the world and its vast pool of empathy. Who has not felt loss? As we are drawn in to share their experience, our burdens too are lightened.
Kannenstine’s journey began on her son’s final birthday, Election Day 2008—“the last day I remember feeling joy.” But however bereft, she wills herself to return to her studio and painting. The familiar landscapes she has drawn and painted for many seasons now become markers for the seasons of the heart. Nature cooperates, as winter steals colors and dims the light. Kannenstine paints a tangled orchard engulfed in ice outside her window, and our poets intone “and I love you, love you, and I go on shattered.”
In Winter Moon, the lunar sentinel (perhaps a frozen heart) illuminates a frigid landscape broken only by the barely perceptible interior glow from a lonely house—isolated, cold, dark. Two other paintings, Night Near Randolph and Northern Lights, reveal otherworldly happenings, as if, above the dark barrier of the hills, the artist’s emotions were spread across the sky. These visions are poignantly coupled with Ungaretti’s verse,
…. And I go on talking, I work.
I’ve hardly changed at all, I’m scared, I smoke…
How can I bear the weight of so much night?”
Slowly, slowly, as spring brings thawing, so Kannenstine seems to breathe deeply and share in some of the season’s giddiness—glorious light-drenched flowering trees, cut flowers in jugs, and now a beckoning golden landscape. Renewal has begun.
And our poets observe,
Star, my unique star,
in the poverty of night, alone,
only for me you shine;
but for me, star,
whose light will never leave me,
your time is brief, you
bestow on me a light
— Linda Rubinstein, Guest Essayist
Exhibition overview from museum website