The Art of Space

Essay by David Newey, photography by Robert Castagna

Recently, I visited the town where I graduated from High School. While driving over old familiar roads I noticed a location where a building once stood and now there was nothing save the grass, weeds and low lying bushes. This caught my attention especially because I had been in that building a number of times and now the spaces I had occupied were no longer there. Or were they?


present time nostalgia no. 1

present time nostalgia no. 2

In my youth I was fortunate enough to grow up on a 350 acre farm in Plymouth, MA, which contained a myriad of opportunities for a young boy to create adventure. There were pastures and forests and dirt roads; cranberry bogs and sand pits, ponds, channels and streams. There were large gardens with hedge rows and hayfields and old stone walls. The giant old oak trees towered over the Cape Cod scrub pine. And filling the view from our farm-yard was an expansive marsh backing up a small harbor and emptying into Cape Cod Bay when the tide was low.

The spaces these landmarks created were obvious to anyone who stopped for even a moment to observe, but more important to me were the spaces that I discovered and made my own during the evolution of my childhood.  The double bushes on the front corner of the house hid the lady slipper that bloomed every Spring.  The flat clearing at the bottom of the hill, hidden from the road, somehow carried a mysterious history with it (and so it has been lately discovered).  There was a huge clump of bush with a path right through it, with the middle looking as if a large beast had sat and spread a clearing to sleep.  Pine tree groves with needle floors and huge rocks juxtaposed against their surroundings and many others,  made for spaces I advantaged.

present time nostalgia no. 3

Of late I have been contemplating these spaces of my early days. I owned these spaces and created them. I put things into these spaces, sometimes physically, but mostly mentally, spiritually, emotionally. Someone else could pass through one of these spaces and see no difference between them  and the neighboring landscape, yet these spaces were real to me and I gave to them and they gave to me.

Having grown into an artistic lifestyle, I have become very aware of how much my observance and manipulation of spaces has contributed to the art that I now put forth. In all forms of art I see the relevance of space, and have newly become aware of that relationship.  But the importance of a space is what the artist does with the space.  A graphic artist will observe a space and render it unlike any other, giving it a unique meaning to the painting or sketch which then becomes visible to and usable by the observer.  A photographer sees a space as no one else has, and in capturing that view gives it that observation. and in presenting it to the world creates a new viewpoint that can be applied to other spaces.

Music takes the space of pitch and timbre and impact and constricts or expands in variations or contorts or organizes the sounds into musical spaces that can define the physical universe, life and other universes.  Dance plays with space and gives it its own motion that can literally counterpoint the dance itself, lending unlimited calm or unmitigated frenzy or any variation of motion in between.

present time nostalgia no. 6

I have come to believe that artists create space and therefore create a place for us to be, just as I created my spaces to be, in my youth.  And the building I found missing? The space remained, not as before, but created differently; maybe not as artistically as I might have desired, but nonetheless created, and so my occupying of that space was not washed away, as I almost imagined, by the disappearance of a physical structure, but persists, as long as I desire.  And I can create into it as I have already done here.

It is up to the artist in each of us to observe those spaces that have been created in the many media, and their surrounds, and take from them or give to them the variations on a theme that each may wont to employ or may enhance to enjoy.

David Newey is a Boston based singer, song-writer and member of the new folk group, Trail Mix. He can be reached at

For more information on the photography in this article visit Castagna Studio .