Written by 1:50 pm Art Is Essential

Art Is Essential vol. 6

Writers on the art that matters to them.

Temple of Ochre

Rekha Valliappan

I was mesmerized by the Temple of Ochre, the lively tones, the psychedelic effects created by the saffron and orange stripes leaping out. The longer I looked, the greater the euphoria seeping from the effect of luminescence through the fading rectangles. I did not know what to expect, not prepared for what optical art meant, favored as I am to non-geometrical designs, brushstrokes that capture landscapes in still-form and deep drama alike, be it a beach scene, flowers in summer, or crashing ocean waves.

But here was this painting by Richard Anuszkiewicz that had me transfixed. It was all lines and squares and light and bright, seemingly disappearing into infinity. The lines to me stood for the spirit of our world, bright and glowing. Here was a contemporary painter who had captured a repetitious array of geometric configurations, lines placed in complementary juxtaposition, the orange intense and stark, the yellows fading into the even spaces of the nesting squares. I viewed this piece pre-COVID-19, on a mid-afternoon of a bright and sunny day. Much has changed since. The shades of our earth this summer are still ochre tones, of the earth and from the earth.

My routine daily walks in the park adjoining the Heckscher Museum of Art on Long Island, where this painting hangs, are no more. Talking to the swans, the family of mallards, the geese, the turtles, the fish, has me distracted. My train of somber thoughts lock on the Temple of Ochre. Necessity dictates that I don’t do these walks, not yet. On self-isolation due to the pandemic, I now think of Anuszkiewicz’s network painting as a world of survivor lines, each demonstrating great depth and intensity. Like the disease, they fade into the unknown when we don’t know where it will lead us, how it will end. But the bold lines shine in unison just the same, tireless, unwavering, reflecting our humanity in our many color shades.

Rekha Valliappan’s short stories, poetry and essays have been published in The Saturday Evening Post, The Sandy River Review Online, Ann Arbor Review, Queen Mob’s Teahouse, Lackington, The Blue Nib, Bending Genres, Aaduna Lit, X-R-A-Y Lit, Foliate Oak, Red Fez, and elsewhere.

Painter Richard Anuszkiewicz (born 1930) was one of the major proponents of Op Art, a movement concerned with experimental optics of color. He died May 19, 2020 in Englewood, New Jersey.

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