New Painting- Southgate Plantation Sugar Mill

It was a  grey day, no sun, flat atmosphere. I started this piece plein air during a workshop I took here a short while ago and finished it in the studio.

southgateplantationmillblog“Southgate Plantation”  10X12 oil on panel

There was a moment or two of brighter light coming from the right as the weather front lifted a bit. Not having sharp contrast from strong sun, makes for a flat scene which it was for most of the day.

I’m pretty pleased with the mill and the tree on the right.

These impressive structures, some 150 remaining ones on St.Croix, are reminders of the history of sugar cane. Going back over 300 years to the early Dutch settlers, it’s hard not to feel ambivelance at the conditions under which slaves were deployed to keep production at peak levels, while recognizing how hot it was. As stories are passed along, it was noted that as the crushers inside these mills squeezed every drop of cane juice out of the stalks, there was on site, a person whose job was to release by use of machete, any unfortunate workers arm that did not release from the grinding wheels in a timely manner.

Some interesting reading about the full history of St Croix when ” sugar was King ” courtesy of the Landmark Society here:

And a photo and short story of a mill from todays’ time here:

And a P.S.- fellow St. Croix resident, blogger friend, and creative digital photographer Don Diddams,  coincidentally posted a strong image and similar sentiments on his blog today. Have a look here and at the body of his work.

Nothing was plein about the air this morning- a rainbow popped into an otherwise dark, looming, overcast sky. Just enough of a snippet of light from somewhere to form a fleeting prism in the sky.


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21 Responses to “New Painting- Southgate Plantation Sugar Mill”

  1. ted Says:

    Wonderful new piece! Very atmospheric, which we rarely see in St. Croix subjects by other artists. Nice rainbow too, need rain!!

  2. frank gardner Says:

    First off, great view. Is that from your porch?

    Love the painting Bonnie. Great design and combo of hard and soft edges.
    Good job.

  3. Melinda Says:

    Beautiful painting! It has a strong presence, a historic energy. Even though the story of the sugar mill is desperately sad, you’ve painted it with thoughtful remembrance. The contrasts and play between the darks and lights are quite successful! I really love your photo with rainbow too.

    So sorry that your comment was lost! I know just what you mean. I try to ‘control-C’ just before clicking ‘post comment’ whenever I can remember!

  4. Marian Fortunati Says:

    Eewwwww….. so if the worker’s arm was in the crushed cane, it became part of the “product”???? Eeewwww

    However, your painting is great. … I thought you didn’t like landscapes……. They like you!! Interesting structures… Hard to imagine a mill inside.

    You know, Bonnie, I love reading your blog as much for the art as I do for the photography and the stories!!!

  5. Donald Diddams Says:

    Bonnie! A landscape! It’s lovely, with that golden light coming in from the right. Love the brushstrokes on the mill and the tree, too. Funny, I just posted an artifact from the sugar days this morning, too.

  6. Noel Luria Says:

    I beg your pardon, there couldn’t have been a flat atmosphere if YOU were there painting it.

  7. Wreggie Says:

    Very different and wonderful.

  8. w1kkp Says:

    Now, I agree with that Noel Luria 100 percent. But, you know what I love? The left side of the painting was what caught my eye and kept my eye coming back. The airiness…the fragility of the white flowers and how they stand out from the folds of loose vegetation and upper vines. Opposite the dense tree and your mill to say nothing of the history lesson of what went within its walls…lovely, really.

  9. Carol King Says:

    What an interesting piece, different from your portraits, but just as beautiful. I love the tree on the right as well.

    And I like the rainbow. Get all your rain now, so when I come to visit, it will be hot and sunny.

  10. Bonnie Luria Says:

    Thank you everyone, for the great comments.

    Frank- yep, that’s the view, or as we refer to it: our flat screen TV.
    You know, I try to channel you when I paint landscapes and ask, ” How would Frank handle this one?”.
    Doesn’t mean I get it even close, but just know that ” good job ” from you means a lot to me. Thanks Frank.

    Melinda- as always, a thoughtfully written comment. I really appreciate your inspired expressions.

    Marian- after going through the boiling process in copper vats of temperatures that would weld an iron fence, an addition of ” organic material ” wouldn’t make a whit of difference. The thought of it however, is sadly horrible.
    You’re getting to be the plein air champ- so maybe you’ll be encouragement for me to do more landscapes.
    Thanks for letting me know you find reasons to come back here and leave your mark.
    PS- the base of many of these mills are as thick as 6 feet. It did keep the temperature down somewhat.
    A handful of homeowners here have purchased land years ago that had mills on them and incorporated them into the design of their houses. They are both beautiful AND haunting.

    Don- I had to add a link in this post to your blog so everyone can see your work- and the similar theme posted on the same day!
    Another surprised reader finding a landscape here! It’s probably a good idea to change things up.

    Noel- kids say the darndest things! In your case, the cleverest. Still, you have to clean your room. ( 🙂 )

    Wreggie- thanks too, for recognizing an un-trademarked subject. One that you’ve gotten to see first hand, many times.

    Pat- Funny, and I thought the left side looked weak, but you’re right. It balances the heaviness of mass on the right.
    It’s hard to look at these monuments or to walk in them and not feel the press of history and mens’ struggles. Unlike most stateside geographic locales, where ” old ” is what was there before Target, we still have so many untouched remnants of hundreds of years past, within touching distance. And no velvet ropes to keep you away. You can touch 1752 and wonder………….

    Carol- glad you like it. I may try some more now that I see it’s a good change for me.

    You will have lots of sun for bobbing and floating when you and Big Bad Matt get here. And if Bill is reading this, sure, he can come too. I can send him the rate schedule……..

  11. planetross Says:

    It reminds me of Rabbit’s house in Winnie the Pooh … and a giant beehive.

    History is cruel: I’m glad I don’t live in it.

  12. Joanne Says:

    I second what everyone else has said – including how wonderful it is to read the history behind the subject of the painting! I do love the touches of orange/red you have placed so strategically. They draw my focus back again and again to the structure, and then into the doorway. And what a gorgeous view! WOW! Did you notice that there is actually a DOUBLE rainbow? The second one is just barely visible on the right side of the one you can see… about 1/2 way to the edge of the picture. *sigh* So lovely! Have a great weekend, Bonnie.

  13. Bonnie Luria Says:

    Ross- please avoid becoming part of history for a long, long time. Adding one more long to that.

    Joanne- you have the eyes of a hawk! There was a remnant of a tiny echo of that first rainbow and I didn’t even realize it registered in the blog photo!

    PS- I liked your words to live by. I’d have chosen the same ones.

  14. Nancy Moskovitz Says:

    Wow! Great painting. History come alive. Great photo. All in one post. Thank you for letting me experience St. Croix vicariously.

  15. Jala Pfaff Says:

    Wonderful. It’s reminding me of a famous painting…Cezanne? Can’t remember exactly.

  16. Nava Says:

    Ooooh, I remember these sugar mills from our visit to St. Croix!

    Nice mood and movement in this painting!

  17. TerryC Says:

    Awesome painting, Bonnie. I can feel the wind blowing through the trees and moving the humid air.

  18. WR Jones Says:

    I like this piece. Very subtle use of color and edges.

    I guess we will never understand the horror of being someone’s slave. Although, from some documentaries I have watched, it still goes on in the sex business even here in the enlightened US.

  19. Bonnie Luria Says:

    Nancy-so glad you like it.

    Jala- just mentioning the name Cezanne by way of comparison is enough for me!

    Nava- these icons really impress visitors and still have an effect on those of us who see them daily.

    Terry- wouldn’t the one in Rust Op Twist be a great place for a massage!

    Bill- sadly you’re right about humans using humans in so called enlightened societies. As old as history and not likely eradicated.

  20. nathaliewithanh Says:

    Thanks for sharing the machete story. It somehow made me feel so much better about my day and having two arms.

  21. Eldon Says:

    I very much like Southgate Plantation. Some folks don’t appreciate what it takes to paint that cool light. It’s hard to do. You nailed it tho.

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