I was going to write about last week’s election here, about the runup to the election and the aftermath, particularly the awful spinning by Karl Rove and his ilk who try to justify their deceitful tactics and the ridiculous expense of these campaigns (from which they profit very nicely) with a continuance of their takers versus makers argument, one that drives me mad. But I’m too fatigued by the whole thing. So I set out to seek something that might catch my eye and, as I often do, headed over to Luminous Lint where I came across this striking image, a blaze of color and shape that filled the frame like a Pop Art vision. Indeed, in the thumbnail as it was shown I thought that it was a painting.
It wasn’t until I clicked on it to see the larger image that I realized that this was actually a person in costume. Titled Junkanoo #1, it was an image taken by photographer Edward Yanowitz around 1979 in the Bahamas. This image was actually used as a postage stamp for the Bahamas in 1979. Junkanoos are street parades, much like a Mummers-type event, that are common in the Bahamas and about which Yanowitz wrote when describing this image:
“It takes place once a year on two nights, Boxing day (26 Dec.) and New Years morning. It starts at 3 or 4 in the morning until about 8am. Groups called “gangs” compete against each other for the best costume designs and rhythm sounds, there are hundreds of people dancing around, playing on goat skin drums, beating cow bells together, whistles and various instruments. It’s a very powerful sound. When I photographed it during the seventies there were very few street lights so it was in complete darkness. I had to wait for the slides to come back just to see if I got anything, and if you discovered something in your work, you had to wait another year before you could utilize it the next time.”
I immediately thought Pop Art at first but the more I looked at this the more I realized that this really reminded me of some pieces by one of my favorite Modernist painters, Marsden Hartley. His Portrait from around 1914 is shown here. He did several of these colorful pieces with strong shapes and lines that are juxtaposed on dark backgrounds. As I was searching for my own voice, these pieces were deeply influential. The darkness underneath both gave the color a boost and created a different subtext for how the viewer might take in these colors, not simply as being bright and joyous. This was one of the things I wanted so much in my own work.
Maybe that’s why this image of the Junkanoo parader stopped me in my tracks. I don’t know for sure. But it is definitely a great image.