Does it shed light even on a busy city street, casting a sweet glow over the artificial light of a theater marquee?
Do its beams add to the spookiness of a church cemetery at midnight even as in another painting they illuminate young lovers seated on a bench?
The answer is: All of the above, and what color is that moon anyway?
That depends on the eye of the artists depicting it.
Artists for centuries have spread moonlight everywhere – and many have captured the moon itself in their paintings. And that’s what the current exhibit, “The Color of the Moon: Lunar Painting in American Art,” at the James A. Michener Museum is all about – exploring how painters have portrayed man’s unrelenting fascination with our favorite rock in space.
“The moon evokes special feelings in all of us. We have a unique connection with the moon,” said Laura Vookies, chair of the curatorial department at the Hudson River Museum in Yonkers.
She conducted a brief tour for the media of the more than 60 paintings and works on paper on display at the museum in Doylestown until Sept. 8.
The exhibition, assembled by Vookies and Bartholomew F. Bland, executive director of Lehman College Art Gallery of the City University of New York, includes works on loan from museums and private collections throughout the United States and was prepared to coincide with this summer’s 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission when American astronauts first walked on the surface of the moon.
“The exhibition traces the position, places and phases of the moon across more than 150 years of art and explores the romanticism of our relationship with the moon,” Vookies said.
The display is divided into three segments.
The first, Popular Moon from Myth to Destination, ranges from mythological scenes of the goddess Diana, by artist-scientist Samuel F. B. Morse, to the Apollo 11 blast-off painted by Jamie Wyeth as part of a NASA art program.
The second, The Romantic Moon from the Hudson River School to 20th Century Modernists, features moonlit towers by Thomas Cole and an abstraction by Arthur Dove.
The third, The Moody Moon from Forest Glades to the Open Sea, displays works by Edward Bannister, Ralph Blakelock and George Inness, showing the deep connection between spirituality and moonlight at the end of the 19th century.
Vookies said the moon has been bringing together science and the arts since the time of the 15th Century Medici family right up to the lunar landing in 1969.
In conjunction with the exhibit, the Michener has planned several programs. It will sponsor a film series in partnership with the county Theater. There will also be a lecture series at the museum, and a star party to be held in collaboration with the Bucks-Mont Astronomical Association.
Information and tickets may be found at MichenerArtMuseum.org
Is the moon a great lemon in the distant sky?