Duck Creek Spillway Revisited

Andrew Wyeth had Helga, Van Gogh had Dr. Gachet, Cezanne had Mt. St. Victoire, and Monet had his haystacks. Iconic models, objects or vistas associated with the masters. Me, after finding a fascinating blend of cityscape, female beauty and urban culture at the Duck Creek Spillway, I resolved to do something more ambitious with the motif.

In case you weren't here for my earlier post, here's my June picture of a woman washing her feet in the sluice gate of the spillway, surrounded by graffiti:

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I had ideas of childhood summers and forbidden places, things which I thought might make something more profound of the motif. I have two grandsons, aged (at the time) 10 and 11. This is a wonderful time to be alive. Just old enough to break free of mom's apron springs and go places where you don't belong, but still young enough to be really creeped out about the whole thing. Where better to go than a spillway? What better time than on summer vacation? What better age than on the cusp of puberty? The story had everything, or so I thought. I arranged with my son and daughter in law to borrow two kids for a painting and photo session.


So there they went, the ten and eleven and, as a special bonus, a three year old brother. All the best ideas come from childhood. This is the age to wander where you don't belong, among the graffiti and the rats. Better still if you bring your toddler brother along.

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Summers are great times when you're a kid, but the summers when you're ten or eleven are the magical ones. Maybe the problem with this picture had to do with my having to get the parents' permission to pose these kids where they didn't belong. Is forbidden fruit really forbidden when you ask permission?


Of course, the fact that certain locales are forbidden doesn't necessarily mean a ten year old should go there. Here's that same spillway after a half hour of hard summer rain. My grandkids might have found it fun for the first thirty seconds, but then the raging waters would have carried them into uprooted trees and pilings, and spoiled their fun.

Still, I wanted to make a picture about kids going places where they don't belong, danger or no danger.

Come the next clear day, I once more had access to grandkids, aged 11, 10 and 3. Oil is a surprisingly cooperative tool for sketching. That Magic Summer, you know? The one where floodwaters nearly made strawberry jam out of us all. The story had everything. Rod Serling would have made a Twilight Zone episode out of it all.

But it just plain didn't please me. Not visually, anyway. I love my grandkids, and I love the emotional resonance of summer and heat and forbidden places and no parents. But the sketches just didn't click, no matter how hard I tried.

And so ended Duck Creek Spillway, Opus 2. I had one more trick up my sleeve.