The Lights At Street Level

Think for a moment about a painting you love.

How quickly were you drawn to it? Did your appreciation accrue over time, or did you love it the minute you saw it? If the latter, what was it that drew you in?

After Easter dinner in 2018, I strolled through a small art gallery and came face to face with a series of three paintings–“From the 22nd Floor”–by a local artist, Kathy Axilrod. Each depicted a view from the 22nd floor of an apartment building located between 89th and 90th Streets on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. All three were striking, but I was especially attracted to the second one in the series. I lingered in front of it for a minute or so and then moved on. But just a few seconds later, I backpedaled, planted myself in front of it, and realized that I would end up buying it.

From the 22nd Floor 2 | 30″ x 24″ | Oil on canvas

A number of things drew me into this work. It depicts New York, a city I’ve loved since I was a child. It includes the top of the iconic spiral of the Guggenheim Museum, designed by an architect whose work I’ve always admired. I love the painting’s late afternoon/early evening palette of blues and grays; it had the feel of autumn or winter, my two favorite seasons. (The artist later confirmed that it was mid-autumn). I love the shimmer of light on the Central Park Reservoir. But the real magic, for me, is the glow of the lights on the south side of 89th Street: a few meticulously placed brush strokes of yellow and orange bring the entire canvas alive.

Shortly after leaving the gallery, I e-mailed the artist and laid claim. It’s been hanging in the entryway of my home ever since, and brings me joy every day.

The other two paintings in the series are below.

From the 22nd Floor 1 | 18″ x 26″ | Oil on canvas
From the 22nd Floor 3 | 30″ x 24″| Oil on canvas

What painting brings you joy, and why?

Trivia tidbit: I’ve blogged previously about my love of ‘the golden hour’. Axilrod’s painting depicts another colorful time, the so-called ‘blue hour’. While a day’s golden hours occur just after sunrise and just before sunset, when the sun is just above the horizon, the blue hours are just before sunrise and just after sunset, when the sun is just below the horizon. (Note: while the duration of this phenomenon depends on where you are in the world, it’s generally more a matter of minutes and not a full hour). And the nerd in me has to include this nifty graphic by Oscar Harper.


  • Relaxing after my recent TAVR, was excited to comment on Augenblick with my favorite, but couldn’t figure out how to attach, so here it is:

    Most interesting: could it be less like yours? Instantly wanted it and bought it from my college friend Herb Jackson, who has subsequently become well known.

    Liked by 1 person

  • It’s ALL about the light. These photographs capture magnificently the “blue hour” lighting on what is one of my favorite cities in all the world. Your description of the art and experience is likewise, superb.

    Liked by 1 person

  • Never heard of the blue hour! Thanks for that! Love both the golden and blue, now I have a new fact to put in my tool belt!

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  • Jeanne
    These are beautiful paintings from the epicenter of the known universe. They remind me somewhat of the works of Edward Hopper, but she is a bit more impressionistic in hers. Both understand that it is all about the light.

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  • Good food for thought. The painting is beautiful and it does conjure up a neat feeling for that area. Not that I’m in New York lover. Actually hate it. But I do wonder why I love certain paintings and why others leave me cold. And about the dull hour, we have an entry in our family dictionary that is dull hour, which is Sunday nights after dinner before the school week starts. Thanks!

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  • Jeanne, I learn something new every time you submit a new blogpost! You teach me to look around and reflect on my surroundings, something I often neglect to do in these hectic times.

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  • It’s a lovely painting, JDB. How thrilling to have it hanging in your home; an organic evocation of one of the world’s great cities. At first glance (and before reading) I thought the water was a placid bay; perhaps because I’d missed the hint of the roof of the Guge!
    I sat with the image for a couple of minutes before reading your text. Where was I drawn? To the narrow, lit street; full of mystery or excitement or danger or fun or romance or…
    (I think my blue hour might be longer than many, irrespective of latitude. Hope you are safe and well)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Always so great to have one of your comments land, Bruce! The painting elicited one of the strongest–and most covetous!–responses to a work of art I’ve ever had, i.e. to a work of art that I actually had an opportunity to buy. I’ve had similar responses to works in museums, of course. Oh to have any one of the many paintings I’ve featured on Augenblick over the years hanging in my own home…! I’m woefully behind over at VC and need to start catching up right now.

      Liked by 1 person

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