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From Jane Hirshfield’s Ten Windows:”Why ask art into a life at all, if not to be transformed and enlarged by its presence and mysterious means?” I think of this as I recall the painting exhibit I saw this past weekend — the Hudson River Valley painter Thomas Cole and his craggy and light-beamed vales and waterfalls alongside contemporary works such as an entire hallway of Jerry Gretzinger’s obsessive 8×10 portions of a swooping, colorful map of an imaginary place, with river curves and hill contours. I felt there was a bit of an uneasy jostling between the old paintings and the new, as if a battle was going on for my attention. I was drawn to the newer works, their bright confusions. Cole’s work, in their fine frames, seemed tame and old-fashioned. But I forced myself to look at them closely, their light-etched leaves, froth of clouds, in some ways as imaginary as Gretzinger’s map. And as glorious. There are so many ways into the wilderness.

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