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Friday, November 22, 2013

Darkness is the absence of light; in contrast, light brings a painting to life!

Here the body of Christ forms a cross; the light creates contrast between the earthly and the heavenly realms.
A recent study of adults and children worldwide showed that what they fear most is darkness. This seems to be an inborn fear. For Christians this makes sense since they believe the light of Christ is given to every person who is born. Believers hunger and thirst for light in much the same way that all living things reach for the light.

A seedling pushes through the dark earth in search of the life-giving light of the sun that will nourish it and feed it as it grows. Even the lowest of animal forms seek out light for warmth. On any given morning in Florida, my sidewalk may be filled with lizards that crawl out of their dark havens to warm themselves in the light.


Snakes slither from their dark holes in much the same way. They become intoxicated and lethargic as they drink in the warmth of the sun seemingly blinded by the brightness. You can walk by them and they barely notice
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Darkness is the absence of light. Since children fear what they cannot see, darkness allows their imaginations to run wild. Maurice Sendak illustrates this best in his children’s book: “Where the Wild Things Are” Sendak has taken what we all fear (the darkness) and allowed his character Morris to conquer his fears and put them to rest.

Darkness provides a contrast that makes the value of light seem brighter and whiter. This play of light and shadow is what makes a painting interesting.


Darkness is often used as a reference to evil, and good is portrayed as light. Darkness can also be seductive and intriguing. It is more difficult to ignore sin and temptation in the darkness. We are deceived into thinking that darkness somehow hides or “covers” our sin. Light reveals and exposes truth and evil. No wonder we run from the light when we feel guilty or “bad.” No wonder people, especially children, fear darkness because it leads us into the unknown and may cause us to do bad things.

How artists handle the forces of good and evil, of dark and light sometimes reveals their own belief system.

PETER PAUL RUBENS - MASSACRE OF THE INNOCENTS
Painted in 1611, Massacre of the Innocents is Rubens' interpretation of Herod's order to kill every young male in Bethlehem, as recounted in the Gospel of Matthew. Featuring nude men ripping babies out of the arms of their mothers and then murdering the children in front of them, the painting is certainly not for the squeamish.


The darkness of the background makes the foreground flowers seem even brighter.