Our little cottage in Stonington has been revised and reconfigured and redesigned repeatedly since it was first built in the early 1900s. As a result of all of the renovation work, we think there’s only one original fixture still in the house — the ceiling light in the guest room. We’re determined to keep it as the one interior connection to the original design of the place.
It wasn’t a hard decision, because it’s a nifty little pink glass piece that has a distinctly old-fashioned, cottagey vibe to it. But what I particularly like is the design. Unlike modern overhead lights, which require you to stand, aching arms stretched directly overhead, and loosen multiple screws and then remove a glass fitting to get to the light bulb, this design is open. Remove one of the anchors, tilt the pink glass section down, and voila! You can easily change the light bulb or, more frequently, remove the inevitable collection of fly carcasses that you’re always going to find in a summer cottage.
It’s as if the light fixture design was based on the practical realities of where the light fixture would be and how it would be used, and took into consideration making it easier and simpler for the user to do the basics like changing a bulb. What a concept!
We’re at the Greenbrier for a weekend getaway. It’s a pretty ornate place, with lots of random statues and busts here and there. The lighting of these pieces is pretty dramatic, too. This guy looks like somebody you wouldn’t want to meet in a dark alley.
The National Mall in Washington, D.C., is a wonderful place, with its museums and monuments, walking paths and reflecting pool. My favorite spot on the Mall is the Lincoln Memorial. It is, quite simply, a majestic place — a kind of temple to democracy and an aspirational symbol of what the United States can and should aspire to be.
The most awesome part of the Lincoln Memorial experience is entering the interior and seeing the colossal statute of Lincoln created by sculptor Daniel Chester French. Towering nineteen feet tall, showing Lincoln seated on an enormous chair, the statute is the embodiment of our ideal of presidential character. When many of us — at least, those who have visited the Memorial –visualize Lincoln, French’s depiction is what comes to mind: deeply thoughtful, somber, placid, resolute, and reassuring. The dark shadows that sharply etch the 16th President’s craggy face play a significant role in creating that sense of calmness and historical enormity.
Interestingly, it wasn’t always that way. When the Lincoln Memorial was first dedicated in 1922, French was horrified by the lighting of the statute. French specifically created the sculpture so that shadows would define Lincoln’s face, but the skylights in the building didn’t produce sufficient overhead lighting to provide the shadows — leaving Lincoln to sit with a kind of blank, zombie-like stare, rather than projecting the sense of unwavering purpose that French had intended. It wasn’t until 1926, after large floodlights were installed into the ceiling to cast the overhead light in the right way, that French was satisfied. The photograph below of the worker installing the statue prior to the dedication gives a sense of how different Lincoln looked under the original lighting conditions.
French was right, of course — the shadows are a crucial part of what makes the Lincoln Memorial statue so memorable. It’s amazing what some light shining from the right direction can accomplish.