POV: You’re a student from Episcopal High School wandering the labyrinthian halls of the National Portrait Gallery. You’re sick of seeing monotonous rooms filled with photorealistic portraits of Civil War heroes and landscapes of the Wild West, you look in every room in search of the perfect painting and you stumble upon a familiar artwork.
There it was, an oil painting that consisted of awkward geometric shapes that somehow fit themselves perfectly in the square frame. Levee Farms by Wayne Thiebaud. It was a painting from above, perhaps from the perspective of a low-flying bird, that surveyed planting fields and a river that bathed in the warmth of the midday sun. The grasslands contorted themselves to follow the river which flowed into the delta. The occasional trees interrupted the orderly shadows of contour farming and planted themselves against the river’s edge. The colors, however, were sun-bleached and out of place. They were defiant of the traditional rules of nature; the river was not an ocean blue but a muted pink, the farmlands were not forest green but bright orange. Some patches were drawn from an ariel point of view yet others were linear. There was no horizon to the painting either, a manipulation of nature that toyed with my perspective.
I failed to relate to Thieubaud’s point of view until I was struck by a sudden sense of familiarity. His contorted portrayal of the plantations strongly resembled the views from my flights from IAD to PVG, Dulles International Airport to Shanghai Pudong International Airport. I would wake up from my naps in the midst of my fourteen-hour flight home and stare out the window. Most of the time, the view would be either of the pitch-black night skies or, it would be straight-up white light. The most exhilarating feeling though is when you wake up from yet another nap, but this time instead of seeing two extremes, you begin to see the faint shadows of land. I saw the same contours in the countryside as the ones in Thieubaud’s art. The way the plane would turn and angle itself towards the ground was almost identical to the point of view of the low-flying bird on top of Levee Farms.