R . M . H


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Sometimes, when the road is under-wheel and the sky rushes overhead, there is a magical moment of observation and reflection. The highway's dashed white line extends into eternity; Einstein's "Theory of Relativity" is obvious; mans' eternal struggle with nature is a dance; and life is fresh. And sometimes, when painting changes from doing into being, I travel another road full of insightful glimpses. Like most revelations, these are not unique but they dawn with the power and newness of the morning sun.


This series of paintings was originally conceived in early 1991 and has been a reoccurring theme of exploration ever since. After the success of the Chuckatuck Creek Series, I was searching for a subject with similar graphic symbols. I realized the road, like the creek, could function as a path in reality and in painting. For the sake of growth and interest, I wanted a new element and decided on the house, a symbol for mankind, and a contrast to the fluid nature of the road. Along with the theme "Highway Homes," I decided the order of exploration would be sepia drawings, watercolors, oil sketches, and larger paintings. (To be honest, frequently the passion of creativity overpowered this logically predetermined order.) I also decided that I would continue to paint this theme until it yielded its truths.

While working with the reed pen and sepia ink -- a new adventure for me -- I learned to simplify the shapes and quickly identified the essential elements of the series: the receding road (triangle, arc, direction), the house and its land (rectangle, anchor), the vibrant forest (rhythm, divider, unifier), and the ever present sky (gradation, mirror). While doing the drawings I realized that the "by the side of the road and be a friend to man" house and the "away from everyone" house were the same. Like the inside and outside of the cup, the positive and negative shapes of a drawing, and the yin and yang; the average life has a lot more to do with perception than reality.

In the watercolors, the temporal variations of each composition were represented by colors and values. As my brush explored a two-dimensional time, I remembered the many childhood journeys that I spent delighting in shadow colors on the pavement and watching the elusive, gleaming reflections of the sun on the dewy grass. I found that light and shade like joy and sadness, or up and down are not opposites but complements -- parts of the same picture.

In the oil sketches both paint qualities, body and color, are used to express the power of light. While doing these paintings, I became aware that many of the scenes were along the roads to and from my parentís home. They are the coastal scenes of Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina. After a decade of exploring, one of my overwhelming conclusions is how much things will and have remained the same. An understanding that place and materials suggest the use and possibilities for a site. Not only are these paintings glimpses into a nostalgic past, but visions of the future. Here in the new millennium, these farm homes, their unchanged basic designs, outlive the already dated visions of the future.

The newer paintings are some steps closer to the edge of creativity. These paintings are starting to explore the more expressive characteristics of the subject and media. It is too early to know what I will find in these paintings. But as I show these works, some people say they are paintings full of storms and disaster; I see the nurturing rains having just past and the future bright with promise.

Color can be a metaphor for light and the act of painting can be a metaphor for the journey of life.



-- Ray M. Hershberger, revised 2003






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