There is a burned-out pier next to Portland's new Ocean Gateway Marine Terminal. I know these posts well, because I used to spend a lot of time watching them in all weather, and all light conditions, while waiting for my daughter to finish her Portland High School varsity sailing practice at Sail Maine's site on the same stretch of waterfront. As the sun neared the horizon, the light would often set the pilings on fire again, this time with sunlight. Their reflections danced on the rippling water. Sometime flocks of seagulls would perch on their narrow tops, dotting the i's.
I never tired of watching them. They should have been ugly, these charred remains slowly rotting in the sea. Instead, they were beautiful.
One of the things I love about painting is the chance to try to capture this kind of incongruent beauty. What makes us almost ache in the presence of something beautiful? What can reflect it back to someone who is not there at the time? Poetry can. Paintings. Photography. Anything that taps into a place where we have all felt the same thing. It's easy to try and miss. And when it works, even to a small degree, it is a little like being that charred pylon reflecting back the light.