I’ve been sort of obsessed with triangles lately.
I know when it happened, but I’m not sure why. It started with this:
No one knows for certain where this teepee-like structure came from. Artists of all ages often build interesting little installations in Inwood Hill Park made from natural materials. So it could be that. One person swore that there was a movie shot at the spot, and the film crew built it as a set.
Regardless, my younger son and his friends were thrilled with it. And the more I looked at it, the more I was struck by how the triangle shape of the shelter was echoed in the very dark lower trunk of the tree at the top of the hill. Then I saw that the massive rocks descending the hill were triangles. And the sky holes formed by large tree branches, too. Soon, I saw triangles everywhere.
I came back to paint the shelter, making sure that the dark trunk of the ridge tree was in the composition. That study was good and pretty interesting to me, but I wanted to push it.
One Saturday, my wife and I decided it was a good day for “divide and conquer,” meaning we split up the boys and each of us does something with one of them to keep them from killing each other (and ganging up on us!) I took Charlie to the park and took my plein air kit. He took baseball equipment and his scooter. I saw triangles in the marsh scene. I painted this:
That was exciting to me, although it seemed to horrify or puzzle most passersby.
The next week, I took this painting back to the shelter spot, and painted over it, abstracting the scene into triangles. I knew what this was for. I wanted my friend Danny to own this one. At first, I thought I would leave about half of the original painting, shown below, which depicts Dyckman Street, looking down Seaman Ave. But the leaves and hillside gradually took over the canvas.
In the end, only a bit of the first painting showed through. I liked how the pre-War buildings of Seaman Ave were peaking through a painting of a very different kind of shelter. This was Inwood from the times of the Lenape people to today. I shot a photo of “Shelter,” but in progress. I mailed off the painting to Danny without photographing the finished product. Doh!
I started reading about triangles. I learned that they are symbolic of many things. The downward pointing triangle appealed the most to me. It represents abundance, plenty (the “cups” cards of the Tarot), fertility, the female genitalia, water. The upward pointing triangle symbolizes power, stability, maleness.
But mostly, I saw triangles all over in the landscape.
The next triangle painting explored the female angle of triangles. I painted my wife’s legs.
That worked out well, with the legs abstracted to show the warm and cool of colors on the form. Next, I took a photo of mine of a summer tanager and abstracted it a bit with triangles. I liked how I could use triangles to break up the preponderance of blue sky. The triangles also suggested the tree branches pretty well.
Then, I painted with my friend Tony Winters, and this gave me a chance to paint the Henry Hudson Bridge from a different angle, using triangles.
And this latest triangle painting is for our downstairs neighbor, the wonderful MJ. It’s my gift to her on her 9th birthday.
I don’t know when this will end or where it will lead. Right now, I am happy to go back and forth between triangles and more representational work. Ω
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I painted this piece this afternoon, standing in the median at Broadway and Isham, in Inwood, NYC. My kids go to Good Shepherd School. Buy it here.
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