What lies in the dark is often a question heavy with fear. What lies beyond the comfort and assurance of clear vision. Does darkness encompass fear of the unknown, or is being in the dark more than an absence of clarity? Perhaps it is a reminder of the strength and power that lies within all people.
Consider the painting “Parenthesis #4” (2001) by David Klamen, which appears in the Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento, California. A lone vase sits bright and clear in an eerily dark hallway. A single white bracket that almost seems to glow floats in mid space beside the vase forces us to question what we are seeing, to question what is real or necessary.
The darkness here is almost a reminder of reality, since both bright objects are stand almost out of synch with the rest of the painting. In this case darkness is not the presence of fear, but the absence of absolute certainty. In contrast, the intricately painted blue and white vase begs to be touched, to be rendered real and three-dimensional. For this exact reason it is one of the few paintings in the museum that warrants a “Do not touch” sign beside it.
“Parenthesis #4” is a beautiful depiction of the merits of darkness and its relationship to light. It may be cliché but still, without darkness there would be no light. But even more than that, without darkness, light would lose its triumphant power.
This painting also brings to mind another work entwined heavily in the nature of darkness, House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski. With its sense of vast questioning and endless darkness, it is another gorgeous testament to the power, beauty and fear of the dark.
The novel is an epic story told from three different points of view in three separate eras. It tells the history of a family who discover an endless dark passage that one day mysteriously appears in their home. The subsequent exploration and explanation of the dark passage and almost other dimensional expansive space beneath their house, delves into the deep-seeded fear of the dark: the disappearance of direction, the never-ending unknown and the very real sense that it will ever end.
But even though the novel links fear to the nature of darkness, it also attaches exploration, bravery and closeness.
In a time when so much seems uncertain, it is easy to become afraid of the dark. But what we must remind ourselves of is that bright bracket and painted vase, forcing us to question what is in front of us. The question is not, “how long will the darkness last?” or “is there a light at the end of the tunnel?” But instead to ask ourselves, “do I have the power to coax brightness out of the dark?” Don’t worry, the answer is yes. It will always be yes. In the dark it is easy to be fearful. But when we realize we have the power to create light, it is easy to be strong.