The Contrast of Yesterday and Today

Inspired by the almanacs, Sloane began to research the lore and knowledge of the early American farmer. With his trademark brand of singular enthusiasm, he filled his living room with period journals and chronicles, and studied old letters and books. Sloane’s art reflected the change; where previously a typical painting was composed of a cloudscape and perhaps a bit of horizon, the focus shifted downward to the bucolic scenes of early American farm life.

He remembered the moment of transition: “My business with the sky was interrupted one day when I stood in the penetrating loneliness of an abandoned New England barn and felt the presence of the great American past. Just as a sudden accident can end a man’s career, an instant mood can change the path of a well-chosen pursuit. It was a lifetime ago, but I recall that instant clearly, standing in the barn on hay that was strewn there over a century earlier but still perfumed the stillness. I remember how that quiet was broken by the faraway drone of an airplane, like background music to the contrast of yesterday and today. Perhaps that old barn was waiting for it to happen, because the communication was magic; I was confronted with an overwhelming call and I decided that the sky could wait.” 

It wasn’t the old building itself that captured Sloane – it was the understanding that some long-deceased soul, walking the same ground as he stood, had poured himself into this creation; he had labored, sweated, pondered, and prevailed here. The ramshackle barn was not just a quaint New England scene – it was a testament to the character of an ancestor. The “overwhelming call” of history had taken hold.

–Michael Updegraff, excerpt from “An Overwhelming Call: The Life & Work of Eric Sloane,” in Issue Five


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