Today’s Photo Friday theme is Sunset. I’ve been wanting to post these first two pictures–snapped along the bikepath that stretches from the heart of downtown Keene behind various abandoned and still-active factories–ever since I took them on July 19th. Today seemed as good a day as any to post these photos since they were, indeed, taken while the sun was setting even though you can’t see the the actual sunset in either image.

It’s been raining and overcast a lot here in New Hampshire lately; these first two pictures are from a day when it was wet and miserable for most of the day. In the afternoon of July 19th, though, there was a spot of clear skies right as the sun was setting, so the dog and I grabbed the opportunity and took our requisite daily stroll. And here, looking toward the east as the sun was setting behind me, are several images of the pink fog that descended on downtown Keene on the afternoon of July 19th. I can’t say I recall ever seeing pink fog before. It’s not uncommon for sunsets to tint the sky or clouds with pink, orange, and countless shades in between, but I can’t ever remember walking through a landscape shrouded in circus-style cotton candy.

This view of sunset in Keene certainly isn’t the one, I’d presume, that the local Chamber of Commerce would endorse. The officially sanctioned place to view the sun setting over the town of Keene would be Beech Hill, which offers a west-facing vista of our humble town nestled in hills. But although I’ve hiked to the top of Beech Hill, I’ve never viewed the sunset there, nor have I (yet) photographed that famed west-facing vista. Somehow, I like the perverseness of posting a sunset photo that doesn’t show the setting sun but does show the backside of town with its muddy parking lots and orange construction webbing. If you’re going to love a place, you have to love her in all her incarnations. Yes, she looks lovely in a filmy pink negligee…but can you love her when her pink-suffused form is topped by hair in rollers and a face done up in a mud mask?

Although I didn’t make the connection until I started choosing pictures for today’s post, I think I had these images of pink fog in mind when I stepped into the upstairs gallery overlooking Ann Hamilton’s corpus installation at Mass MoCA. One of the breathtaking aspects of this particular exhibit is the light: every one of the several hundred window panes in this renovated mill space, its first floor gallery the length of a football field, has been covered in pink film. The result is a white-painted room that is suffused with fleshly color, like the very body (corpus) that Ann Hamilton’s title invokes. Although the mill building in which this installation is housed had been abandoned as commercially “dead,” the art space it now contains is now palpably alive. The spirit of this place, in a word, has received a new incarnation, a word that happily contains another word, carnation, referring to a vibrant pink tint once used in painting to represent the tones of living flesh.

Although I didn’t make the connection between Hamilton’s installation and the interior of a cathedral when I first entered the main paper-strewn gallery, the Museum literature does, explaining that “The combination of the light filtering through the windows, the implied aisle in the long nave-like gallery, and the voices speaking together suggests the intense, almost otherworldly experience of being in a great cathedral.” Because I don’t, as I admitted yesterday, know much about contemporary art, I didn’t “get” the connection between Hamilton’s exhibit and the notion of sacred space until I entered the gallery overlooking the main exhibit space. In this quiet loft, rows of enormous white-painted beams were lined up like pews on the polished wood floor, the pink-tinted light streaming as if through stained glass. Overlooking the people playing in the gallery below, it really did feel like you’d entered a nondenomination sacred space like the one I found at the end of a purple hallway back in April.

The wonderful thing about pink-fogged sunsets, pink-tinted installation pieces, and other carnation incarnations is the, yes, incarnational aspect of it all. Into this world, God’s pink fog descends and billows, blanketing and suffusing even the backside of town: word becomes flesh as countless people known and unknown romp and mingle amidst falling, pink-tinted pages. The church, Christian theologians would remind us, isn’t a building: it’s a body of believers, the corpus of Christ. And so on the backside of town in Keene, NH and in a renovated mill building in North Adams, MA, I seem to have found religion. Sunsets, like grace, are where you find them, and sometimes in the least suspected places.