"The shape of a landscape is an ancient and silent form of consciousness."
John O'Donohue

To me, the land with its history of trees, plants and terrain always seems to call forth stories. I am fascinated with the paradox of how open spaces become intimate as deep shadows and patches of light play across the surface of the land. Last year, through my husband's work in archeoastronomy, I was introduced to an ancient art form that not only celebrated the phenomenon of light and shadow but, to my surprise, also told the story of how they marked the unfolding of time. It was well known that the people of the Neolithic and Mesolithic age made carved symbols— called petroglyphs— in stone, but it was only recently that the mystery of these engravings was revealed to be astronomical. The symbols are now thought to be visual representations of the movement of celestial bodies—the first calendars!

Megalithic passage tombs were constructed to allow beams of light to pass through a small opening at the entrance of the tomb. As the light traveled through its narrow passage, it illuminated certain symbols that were carved into a stone— or a succession of stones—thus recording the exact time of year. Five to seven thousand years ago these ancient landscapes were dotted with standing stones and burial mounds that were surrounded with carved kerbstones. The standing stones and stone circles were oriented to the sun or the moon and the shadows they cast often indicated astronomical events. I was intrigued. These ancient Celtic mounds of grass and stone were not only a part of the landscape as sacred sites but they also served to measure the time of the year as the sun or moon arced across the sky.

Neolithic art that was thought to be purely decorative is now considered to be an intrinsic part of calendar making and time keeping. It appears that some of these sites may be the oldest astronomical observatories in the world, predating Stonehenge and the Egyptian Pyramids. My current paintings pay homage to this ancient art and the sacred landscapes that have captured my imagination.

Judith Quain
Recent paintings


and new work

at Pamplemousse,

185 Essex St.

Salem MA