In Praise of Shadows

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Photo of Artist Laura Raboff's delicate wire sculptures and their shadow play.
Photo of Artist Laura Raboff’s delicate wire sculptures and the resultant shadow play.

Years ago I came across a slim book by Japanese author Jun’ichirō Tanizaki titled In Praise of Shadows (1933).  It’s a wonderful meditation on aesthetics, which contrasts Traditional Eastern vs Modern Western thought and values. One excerpt that especially resonates,

“Such is our way of thinking—we find beauty not in the in the thing itself but in the patterns of shadows, the light and the darkness, the one thing against another creates.”

Recently, I had a great discussion with collaborator Jen Burke on the topic of shadows. Over the past several years, she has nurtured a connection which has focused around body work, and we are contemplating expanding on that work in our collaborative art piece.

Light is energy: it brightens, warms, illuminates, reveals. In pursuing these positive aspects of light we often neglect the inverse quality – one that paradoxically best reveals light: the contrasting absence of it, or shadows.

Shadows – in a wide range from subtly muted pale grey to highest contrasting stark black – transform objects in a multitude of ways to exaggerate, distort, create mood or add drama. A crisp crescent of darkness below the fullness of an orb implies heaviness of weight physically, while the murky pallor of a mid-winter sky conveys shadows weight emotionally. They illustrate an uncanny ability to lift or subdue mood, as they come and go.

Shadows are the yin to light’s yang.


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