Castellano         English
When warm light turns cold

Our globalized civilization is no longer capable of surviving withoutelectrical energy. The word “electricity” is derived from the Latinized Greek word elektron, which refers to amber, a crystal-like fossilized resin, generally golden in color. Mythology tells us that when Phaethon, son of the solar deity Helios, was killed, his grieving sisters turned into poplar trees, and their tears turned into an amber resin, or elektron, upon falling into the Eridano, the river that we now call the Po. Elektron gave rise to the word elektor, referring to a “radiant sun.” It is no coincidence that since the beginning of time, humankind has used the image of the Sun as a symbol of power.

Highly prized in antiquity, amber was the reason for construction of the Amber Road, a route that originated in the Baltic region, where one of the world’s largest deposits of amber is found. This amber should not be confused with the Arabic term anbar, which means “floating on the sea.” That amber is a complex product which comes from the intestines of sperm whales and, unlike the resin, is found floating on water. As time passes, this “whale amber,” or ambergris, takes on a complex aroma that is indescribably pleasing and captivating. For this reason, ancient people used ambergris as a fine condiment in Mediterranean and Arabic cuisine and burned it as incense. It continues to be used today as a precious essence in the world of haute perfumes.

Sperm whales were almost exterminated after they were discovered to harbor in their heads a kind of liquid gold, an exceptional wax that could be used to make candles, creating a brilliantly white source of illumination. This odorless wax produced no smoke and burned cleanly and completely without dripping. For hundreds of years, it illuminated the most important noble estates and royal palaces of a globalized Europe, until gas and kerosene came onto the scene in the eighteenth century.

Ron Howard’s 2015 film, In the Heart of the Sea, was the inspiration for this painting, which pays homage to Howard’s directorial work. Historical cinema owes much to painting, and these days, we painters also owe much to filmmakers and directors of photography. We all are indebted to the scenic arts, a family in which painting is the smallest sibling but also the most venerable, the longest-lived. I never would have connected Moby Dick with the painted murals and frescoes that decorate the voluptuous ceilings of Golden Age European palaces, especially the spaces that were created from the Baroque imagination. If those ceilings had not been intended to be illuminated during festive nights, decorating them would not have justified the enormous investment of resources and talent. Breathing life into the sets of the Commedia dell’Arte for its audiences required hundreds of candles, candelabra, chandeliers...