WHEN I go to New York City to visit friends, a walk on Madison Avenue is a stimulating change from my daily walk at home in the Adirondack Mountains where the glimpse of a pileated woodpecker or a bald eagle may be the most exciting event in a season.
On Madison Avenue's gallery row, one can always spot interesting works of art by the masters and by artists with ambitions to become household names. On a recent walk, I became captivated by Walter Cade's paintings of windows. I looked and went back to look again and speak to the artist.
The paintings shown were all sparse, tightly painted acrylic representations of windows. Most windows were of urban dwellings, not of shops or offices. Although few figures appeared, several of the paintings gave off a warm and homely glow.
The absence of figures, the somewhat stark compositions, and the realist technique make one think of the paintings of Edward Hopper like "Sunday Morning." But while Hopper seems to be saying "Look at this whole scene, which I have represented at this particular moment," Cade is saying, "Here is what I saw on this street - what I focused my vision upon."
Cade's painting, "Honeymoon for Two," makes this case. These windows belong to a beach resort. There is an implied irony in the title because, although the beach, the towel, and umbrella are expected, there is only one figure in the scene, the standing man.
An unseen "viewer" stands in front of the center window, which reflects the scene as a whole. As his vision shifts, left and then right, the umbrella's place shifts. In the final window, which is cut off, it no longer appears, and the inside of the room is dark. Cade says that the window reflections exemplify a dreamlike state in which things that are, are not. These windows suggest a sort of endless, aimless progression.
A more urban set of windows appears in "The Light at the End of the Ju-Ju Tunnel: Elizabeth Eames' Smile."
Cade explained that the painting names, however long, are important since they initiate the viewer's dialogue with the painting. He feels that what he puts on the canvas is a beginning, and each viewer finishes the work for himself by giving it attentive consideration.
Of course, the tunnel in the painting is symbolic; a ju-ju, according to the artist, is an African spirit. In the left-hand window we see a shadow tunnel created by the shaft of light coming from a window on the opposite side of the room. The right-hand window shows an empty rocking-chair and a photo on the wall behind it. At this point, Cade brings us to his friend, the Elizabeth Eames of the title. She gave him a poster that intrigued him so much that he divided it and constructed two collages from the
halves. The photo on the wall is of one of those collages.
Like Cade's windows, art gives back a reflection of its maker's personal view and something of the times in which he lives. These windowscapes could not have been painted at any other period or by any other artist.