By: Jacob Hawthorne
Gallery: Schmidt Fine Art Gallery
“Every sunset brings the promise of a new dawn.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
What draws us to a sunset? There is something found in the smoky brilliance, no matter where you are in the world, that brings spectators to a halt so that they may appreciate the lavish view. Although it happens night after night after night, the splendor of a perfectly orchestrated sunset truly never loses its luster.
There is something particularly special about being closer to the source of life that produces the illustrious scene of a sunset. When elevated high above the ground, high above the birds and the bees, high above the kites and the helicopters, even above weather and the clouds, the sunset can be viewed in its perfect, unobstructed form. Closer to the source, this image brings its audience to 40,000 feet above the ground.
At this altitude, soaring through the air at 40,000 feet above the ground, the roaring jet engines and the body of the craft cut through the air at extremely high speeds, thus creating a loud hum that reverberates inside the walls of the cabin and deafens all nearby sounds, leaving passengers in a strangely quiet and peaceful oasis.
As dusk encroaches, the light slowly drains from the cabin, seeming to be slowly dragged back to its source, along with the eyes of all passengers onboard. The world below begins their nightly rituals. Lights begin to fade as those tiny households enter their slumber. High above the ground, everything is put back into perspective. Cut off from the world, isolated, you feel humility, you feel small. Your problems feel small.
This image brings the audience to this moment. The brilliant oranges and reds shine even brighter when contrasted by the dark greys and pale blues of the night sky. Shrouded perfectly between two layers of clouds, almost as if the clouds are tucking the sun in for the night, the image captures that moment right before the sun falls below the gloomy horizon.
The setting sun is widely known to serve as a symbol that represents the finality or completion of a journey or of a quest. There is no more significant of a journey than the one of life itself, and through countless artistic expressions, the sunset is metaphorically compared to the twilight period of human life. In many literary works, dusk and the setting sun provide the mystical, fantastical backdrop for those unusual, strange or magical moments found throughout the narrative; moments like a fit of Shakespearian passion, a fleeting glimpse of something paranormal, or perhaps an inexplicable rush of emotions or introspection. Sunsets are a transitional period that grant us all a reminder that change is truly the only constant, and tomorrow is a new day.
One of the best documented examples of such symbolism appears in the 1982 film, The Outsiders, where sunsets and sunrises represent the common, shared good. “It’s okay… We aren’t in the same class. Just don’t forget that some of us watch the sunset too.” These words were uttered by Ponyboy when he realizes that although they come from diametrically opposed gangs, they all look up and see the same sunset and sunrise. The sunset binds us all together, to our common humanity. The awe-inspiring beauty of the sunset pays a tribute to the simple beauty and mystery of life itself. This is Mother Nature reminding all of humanity that there are forces of good and of evil; not to combat evil, but to note that the light needs darkness and the darkness needs light; a delicate balance that pays homage to the Daoist/Taoist concept of yin and yang.
In other contexts, the sunset has also come to symbolize a time to rest. The cyclical nature of sunrise and sunset signifies the passage of time, and the setting sun is a sign to the world that it is finally time to finish working, seek shelter in your homes, and take a break. As the sun is what provides life, warmth, and light to all of us on Earth, when this celestial god-like figure above tells us to rest, who are we not to listen?
When seen in a cemetery or on a graveyard headstone, the sun serves as a symbol for eternal life, as well as the eternal light of heaven. Using this meaning of eternal life, the setting sun has come to represent the finality of our earthly life. But thanks to one red-headed singing orphan, there is one thing we know for sure: the sun will come out tomorrow. The circle of life is demonstrated perfectly during the period of time between dusk and dawn, as the sun sets, faces the darkness of night, and eventually rises once again.
It is well regarded in aviation that the "sweet spot" of flying an aircraft is between 35,000 and 42,000 feet, any higher and the oxygen levels become too thin to fuel the aircraft’s massive engines, and any lower of an altitude and the air resistance is much greater, resulting in more friction and energy usage; additionally, this optimum height, around 40,000 feet, is tied to the typical mass of a commercial jetliner, meaning more massive planes should fly lower, and lighter planes should fly at higher altitudes. In actuality, the most efficient way to fly would be to continue climbing forever, rather than reaching a plateau cruising altitude, as the weight of the aircraft decreases due to fuel usage and the air thins.
At 40,000 feet, you are flying above the Troposphere, which is the bottom-most atmospheric layer that is closest to the ground. The Troposphere is where most of our planet’s weather phenomenons occur, typically known to be measured up to 36,000 feet. This is the altitude where clouds are most likely to form, as well as heavy rains and high winds. So when you fly at this altitude, you are above most weather systems. Pilots of aircrafts prefer to fly in the stratosphere because being above these weather systems means less turbulence and danger.
Schmidt Gallery was founded by Kurt Schmidt with the vision to establish a photo-centric gallery in the heart of Montgomery county, Texas. Although it is all run online at the moment, Schmidt Gallery has dreams of opening up a brick and mortar gallery in The Woodlands just north of Houston. Schmidt Fine Art Gallery was founded in March 2020 as a startup funded by All ARK LLC.
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