The note for the previous painting mentions the enchantment of twilight, but I suspect something else was at work. I call it the Oklahoma Effect, and it has happened to me whenever I've driven across the state. A few hours on the Oklahoma highway induces such a sense of endless, rootless desolation that whatever particular things I see when I stop - weeds, fence posts, someone pumping gas at a service station, birds on a wire, chunks of gravel on the side of the road - feel wonderfully and miraculously actual and present. Dusk maybe just reactivated the effect.
The phenomenon of seeing unexpected depth of beauty in everyday things reminds me of something Joan Acocella recently wrote in the New York Review of Books:
"When critics speak of a writer's ear, this often carries a political implication, of the democratic sort. They are talking about writers (Mark Twain, Willa Cather) whose world, by virtue of being humble, would seem to exclude beauty and music, so that when the writer manages to find in it those riches, the world in question - and, by extension, the whole world - comes to seem blessed."
When that thought is enlarged to include the visual arts - landscape painting, for example - it articulates as well as anything my primary motivation for pursuing art: to attempt to cultivate and to share that kind of insight, that kind of discovery.
The underlying principle expressed by Acocella might be called "the gospel of beauty" - a term coined by the early 20th century poet Vachel Lindsay, who didn't mean quite what I mean by the term. Lindsay did, however, wander the United States for a few years trading poems for food and lodging. I learned of him after I started my own project of aesthetic itinerancy.
Once upon a time there was an American type called "the gentleman vagabond" - presumably a person who was not forced by circumstances to be a tramp but who wanted to see the world in an unencumbered way. Some individuals of this type were motivated by ideals that conventional life didn't leave enough room for. Or they were intent on sharing life with other people in ways that maybe required the context of the road, or of the journey, to make sense, to be socially acceptable.
Lindsay wrote a book about his vagabonding called "Adventures While Preaching the Gospel of Beauty." For years I took encouragement from the very fact of the book's existence, its great title. I expected to like the story as well, when I finally tracked it down, but the personality that comes through is insufferable. I'll just say that Lindsay's ideals were linked to a level of self-righteousness and delusion I hope I'm able to avoid in the pursuit of my ideals.
Maybe we can all be forgiven for preaching now and then, but not to the point of eclipsing dialogue, which is the essential thing. Especially if one is on a journey.