The painting, Look to the Light references the MCS Viaduct, Detroit’s largest railroad bridge, adjacent to Detroit’s former main train station, an iconic symbol of both decay and rebirth in the city.
The location is revisited by artist, Rachel Reynolds Z fifteen years after painting a similar scene, titled Flooded Underpass, Michigan Central Station, Detroit. (oil on panel, 8” x 10” 2004). While Flooded Underpass communicates the beauty of reflected colors cast onto the water that coats the pavement, the painting also illustrates the inability to pass through and move forward. Look to the Light evokes a different perception. Presenting a view from the street, color and shadow dance expressively off of the architecture as the viewer looks toward the light radiating from the other end of the viaduct. Despite evidence of grittiness on the surface of the concrete, Look to the Light portrays a path out of the murkiness of obstacles.
Multiple themes, such as Detroit’s 21st century renaissance, investments into the abandoned building’s recent renovations and the timing of the painting’s execution during the hardships of 2020’s global pandemic all contribute to the title’s sentiment.
However, it is the resilience of Tom & Shawna Stenton, the couple who commissioned the painting that inspires the nature of the luminous glow featured at the end of the tunnel. The artwork, Look to the Light represents a space that embodies hope, faith, optimism and conviction. The expansive field of distance in the painting conveys the capacity of endurance, encouraging sustained efforts to move through areas of darkness while promising clarity and warmth on the horizon of the future.