You're standing at the top of Gospel Hill in Altoona, looking down, and you get dizzy.
Only you're not really at the top of Gospel Hill.
You're viewing Steve Gilbert's painting "Gospel Hill, Altoona."
Mirror photo by Gary M. Baranec
Artist Steve Gilbert talks with Becky Whitley of San Antonio, Texas, during an opening reception at the Blair County Arts Foundation office.
Now you look at "Altoona, 17th Avenue and 10th Street." and feel like your head is being pulled into the painting.
You wonder, how did he do this, and then, how did he do this without getting vertigo himself?
"I have no idea," Gilbert said.
If you go
What: Paintings by Steve Gilbert
When: Through Nov. 30
Where: Blair County Arts Foundation, 1212 12th Ave., Altoona
Admission: Free; open weekdays 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
From the way we see, to the stuff of stars, the Altoona painter is fascinated by ideas.
"Ideas are metaphysical. Ideas are beyond time," Gilbert said.
Ideas rendered in 43 subtly colored oils and acrylics are on display at the Blair County Arts Foundation in Altoona.
The show offers "a wide representation of his works," said foundation executive director Kate Shaffer. "He's one of our really, really talented regional artists, and we're blessed to have him here."
Gilbert captures the essence of particular places in Altoona. A sweeping curve dominates "9th Avenue Track." The distinctive dome of the Cathedral appears in several of his Altoona paintings.
He also freely mixes realism with abstraction. In "Fire-man's Carnival," a fragment of a Ferris wheel churns beneath a large bright saucer shape. Is it the upper portion of a huge spinning ride that propels swing-slung riders outward through centrifical force? Is it on fire? Is it a beautiful spaceship?
Another abstract evokes the stained glass of a church.
Gilbert compares abstract painting to the abstract language of music.
"It enters us. We feel it and enjoy it," he said. "That's how we should approach painting ... feeling the power of the design, the composition, rhythm, color relationships. If they are working, then the painting works, whether figurative or not."
When Gilbert was a small boy growing up in Washington, D.C., his father told him that everything was made of atoms.
"I would have dreams of falling through the earth," he said.
As he grew up, he said he began to develop "a sense of mystery, a sense of the awe-ful, the awe inspiring."
The singularities (or centers) of black holes, places where an infinite gravitational pull destroys both time and space, leave him spellbound.
"It's so mind-blowing," he said. "It resonates inside of me. It's beyond anything we can conceive. That's a good place to start to think about God."
"The world is so deeply mysterious," he said. "We get lulled to sleep. We just take it for granted that today is going to be like yesterday."
Through art, he said, "The idea I'm trying to express, nobody understands."