Shadow Of The Bear: The Power Of Art

Republished from Nov. 2, 2011

In the fall it appears–The Shadow Of The Bear–a gigantic silhouette resembling, well, a bear’s shadow, cast onto a mountain near Cashiers, North Carolina. It can be viewed along Route 64, at around 5:30, on a clear evening. Having just arrived at The Jarrett House Inn for our 31st anniversary, my wife and I rushed from Dillsboro towards Cashiers to find “Rhodes Big View Overlook”, the area I had read about where we could witness this phenomenon first hand.

And sharing the experience with so many others…looking, photographing…made it even more significant.”

We arrived a bit late; the bear had become shaped more like a mouse from the sun’s wane but it was still quite moving. And sharing the experience with so many others (maybe a hundred or so) that had parked their cars on the side of the road and gathered on the narrow shoulder–looking, photographing–made it an event–made it even more significant.

I can’t help but wonder how something as simple as a shadow brings so many, including myself, to witness it. After all it is just a shadow. Maybe it’s a combination of things…

  • Bears are local inhabitants (and attractions) of the North Carolina mountains
  • The sheer size of the shadow is significant, covering well the side of a mountain
  • The shape produced by the ajoining typography is strikingly accurate as far as bear shadows go

The Shadow Of The BearEven so, there is something here that transcends the everyday, transcends familiarity and size, something satisfying to the soul. It’s the seemingly simple things in life that give us the deepest satisfaction I think, like my grandson preferring to play with sticks than with expensive toys. And I say “seemingly” because it goes deep, what’s going on here. I can’t quite define it but I know it made me feel safe and comfortable–it was like I left all my cares in the car and stood before the shadow in perfect calm.

I think art does the same thing–takes us to another place–another “realm”–when we stand before it. We can get swept away by it’s power, like I felt in front of the shadow. It transcends it’s materialness.

Shadow Of The bear (unfinished) by MTMcClanahanI relate to the shadow in another way too in my work. I paint many large, isolated objects, and I see these works–the way these images are presented–as symbolic and spiritual; they seem to represent some “inner” condition of man. That’s how I see The Shadow Of The Bear also.

There are numerous articles and photos of the shadow online, including the links here to romanticasheville.com, visitnc.com, and msnbc.com. Type in “shadow of the bear nc”.


MT McClanahan

An artist and perpetual thinker, MT McClanahan finds inspiration through connecting ideas across a broad range of topics. He especially enjoys philosophy and how art and life interconnect. He is the founder of TPT and his paintings can be seen at mtmcclanahan.com.

5 Responses

  1. elenaslc9 says:

    Thank you, Marcus, for sharing with people the shadow of the bear in this beautiful nature. I love mountains and the enigma, which the are holding. Love this article! And I love your amazing ability to capture your vision of the subject and express your emotions at your painting.

    • I love the mountains also Elena! It’s in my blood I guess–I think that’s where the Scotch-Irish settled–the Blue Ridge area. They give a feeling that no other place offers I think.

      And your words are much too kind. There is no greater feeling to know my emotions come through in my work. Thank you.

  2. suzy southerton says:

    hi marcus,
    they do say that what we paint, ultimately, is a self portrait. so it only feels right to invest your emotions in your images, the inner calm you speak of, the isolation and also that unspoken bond between you and your fellow man.
    i recognise the feelings you speak of.
    i witnessed the supermoon recently, so close to earth it appeared twice it’s normal size. the kids and i stood in awe in the garden and the reflected light we bathed in was almost like a late afternoon, so eery and beautiful. but no bird song, just the gentle rustling of the trees in the night.
    it was just magic.

  3. MTMcClanahan says:

    What a terribly wonderful predicament we find ourselves. I wonder if what we really feel, when faced with the enormity of our world, within that “awe”, is isolation. It’s something we work through, if we allow ourselves to think about it, until we come out the other side of fear to an understanding, or feeling of connection of some sort.

  1. October 9, 2014

    […] “But there is something here that transcends the everyday, transcends familiarity and size, something satisfying to the soul. It’s the seemingly simple things in life that give us the deepest satisfaction…I know it made me feel safe and comfortable–it was like I left all my cares in the car and stood before the shadow in perfect calm” […] […]

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