A Fleeting Impression

By Kyle Gallup

Today my world is black, white and gray. I’m kept company by an image of a single, mercurial cloud hanging in the summer sky and hovering above buildings silhouetted by an overhead sun that makes every edge feel razor sharp.

I’ve begun working on a series of altered prints, images of a sunny view outside my studio window. Drawing on top of the prints with pencil, I intend to change the character of each print by building up the surface and creating a quiet, visual drama in each one. Retreating into my dark, book-lined room, I’m set up on a long, craggy table. Sequestered from the outside, I hope to find some peace of mind in the process.
While working I’m watching an early episode of the 1960’s TV show “The Fugitive.” I’ve taken to this program, obsessed with it and the idea that a man on the run with little more than the clothes on his back and a few dollars in his pocket can survive.

It’s 1964 and America feels different than today. The small towns, filmed in black and white, which Dr. Richard Kimble passes through, have main streets with mom & pop stores, huge cars, and children playing in the streets. A person wanting to lose himself, hide or find a job can easily thumb a ride into town for a couple of weeks and then be on his way.
While listening to and considering the dangerous situations that Richard Kimble finds himself in I take time to build up graphite on the paper. It’s slow going and my pencils need to be sharpened every few minutes to give me as much control as possible.  With the porous, soft material I create depth and density. I especially like the feeling of rubbing the steely-colored dust with my fingers, making the darks as black as possible.

Thoughts of temporality run through my mind, as I consider how a single cloud can take shape and change form many times over, positioning and repositioning in the vastness of the sky. This floating presence has a relationship to the buildings around it making it feel organic and weightless. The cloud’s fleeting, rootless character is captured by my use of technical means—its identity caught for posterity in a diaphanous, bright white in my final drawing.

I can bear to watch Richard Kimble endure hiding out, getting double-crossed, captured, and escaping again and again because I trust that at the end of his journey he will find what he’s looking for—the one-armed man who murdered his wife. He will finally be set free from the pain and desperation that have plagued him for so long. I watch David Janssen’s solid, subtle, truth-filled performances without disbelief even while I doubt that a fugitive today could hop a freight, assume many aliases, and persuade people of his innocence.

Though our lives are constantly in flux, I take comfort in the thought that as quickly as a cloud passes across the sky, a man on the run can find momentary refuge. The message is simple: change carries a particular kind of freedom and can be expressed and accepted as an end in itself.  The key? Living and creating in the moment.
Kyle Gallup, Cloud #1, 2011, 11 x 15 inches, graphite on lithographic print on paper.
Kyle Gallup is an artist who works in collage and watercolor.