I don’t think I would be alone in saying that lately, my window has become one of my greatest companions. Unable to do the things I normally do, I instead break away from my kitchen table (aka “desk”) to look out at the birds, squirrels, and the giant brown rabbit I now know are frequent visitors.
Even if it’s only a temporary reprieve, my window breaks are a much-needed reminder that the world is still turning. Because I have my window, I know that the gentle movement of the sun will eventually yield to dusk. But, I also know that a new day will come and with it, a new light. Truly, I’ve come to cherish the distraction that “looking out” can give me — especially when I’ve spent so much time “staying in.”
While my appreciation for my window is newly developed, William Wesley Peters – the architect who designed the Norton Center – clearly understood the transformative power windows can have on daily life. A disciple of Frank Lloyd Wright, Peters’ architectural designs sought to bring harmony between built interior spaces and the organic qualities of the natural world. To achieve this balance, careful thought went into what materials were used, what color schemes were employed, and, of course, how windows could best bridge the distance between the inside and the outdoors.
Typically, the Norton Center’s lofty lobby windows look out on an active campus, but lately the grounds are quiet. Even so, through Peters’ architectural design, the windows themselves capture the liveliness of each day’s light by marking every hour with dynamic shadows and hues. Depending on the time, the weather, and the season, these windows quite literally paint a series of portraits of the day, using the walls, floors, and ceilings of the Norton Center itself as their canvas.
Of course, this has always been the case. Peters, like other architects who aimed to celebrate our connections to the natural world, was very intentional in making this special interaction a regular feature for Norton Center visitors. Perhaps now, it’s just an especially poignant quality to think about. Even though our regular lives have become relatively still, we can remember that these windows are still making visible the rhythms and cycles that prove things are still in motion.
Whether we’re thinking about our own windows or specially designed ones like the Norton Center’s, it’s no mystery that windows have always had the power (both literally and metaphorically) to expand our worldviews. Even images featuring windows give us a way to contemplate what lies beyond the immediate scene an artist chose to capture. This idea served as the codifying theme for Beyond the Window – a visual arts exhibition hosted by the Norton Center in 2015. In this show, artists from the still life painting association Zeuxis used windows as a means to push the conceptual and compositional boundaries of their work. Included in the show was the piece Dusk, a painting by Centre College’s own Sheldon Tapley. In this scene, Tapley chose to capture a window’s reflected image rather than the window itself, inspiring deeper dialogues about what it means to experience the act of “looking out.”
Without a doubt, these artists reminded us that there is always a larger world, complete with its own narratives and pulses, right on the other side of the glass. To further explore the idea of windows and the pathways they provide for our imaginations, we invite you to take a look at our special image gallery featuring artworks with windows from around the world. Some real, some imaginary, but all in some way “revealing,” we hope these images invigorate your imagination and remind you to explore what new things your own windows might have to show you.
Want to know more about the Norton Center’s fascinating architectural history? Explore the exhibition microsite for “The Wright Angle: The Norton Center for the Arts, William Wesley Peters and Frank Lloyd Wright” . There, you can take a deep dive into how the Norton Center came to be the amazing building it is today.
Would you like a chance to see Sheldon Tapley’s piece Dusk in person? Stay tuned — it, and the rest of Tapley’s retrospective exhibition Sheldon Tapley: Painter and Draftsman will be on view when the Norton Center opens to the public.
Molly Baker is a graduate of Berea College, where she studied Art History and Asian Studies. She is currently pursuing a master’s degree in Art History from the University of Kentucky. Before joining the Norton Center for the Arts, Molly held the position of Gallery Manager at TAMARACK: The Best of West Virginia. Later, she served as Assistant Curator/Gallery Manager at the Doris Ulmann Galleries (Berea College) as a sabbatical replacement. Molly is especially dedicated to the study and promotion of the arts and arts-based experiences using creative methods. Specifically, her goal is to bridge arts presentations with inclusive opportunities to learn about context, creators, and cultural significance, pointing to our combined human experiences in order to encourage critical thinking and understanding.