Figure 5 in Gold

When I was walking in the centre of Edinburgh recently, I came across this remnant from bygone days painted on the side of a building.


Perhaps it’s just the way my mind works, but I was immediately reminded of this painting:

'I Saw The Figure 5 in Gold' by Charles Demuth

It’s a painting by Precisionist, Charles Demuth, which was inspired by the poem ‘The Great Figure’ by that wonderful Imagist, William Carlos Williams:

The Great Figure

Among the rain
and lights
I saw the figure 5
in gold
on a red
fire truck
to gong clangs
siren howls
and wheels rumbling
through the dark city

Isn’t that a fabulous poem?  Carlos Williams had an incredible talent for conveying such rich images through so few words.

Like I said, maybe it’s just the way my mind works, but when I wander around cities, ramble through forests, window-shop down the high street, I can’t help but be reminded of paintings, poems, lyrics, novels etc.

I’d be fascinated to know, however, what creative works you are reminded of as you make your way through your city, your hometown, your local parks and woodlands.  Perhaps it’s the work of a local artist or songwriter?  Or maybe it’s a personal association?  What are the narratives that call to you when you’re out and about?


May 29, 2008. Creativity, Environment.


  1. travelerstales replied:

    My mind works that way with music. I drive my wife crazy because for just about anything we’re talking about or situation we’re in, my mind spits out some song that loosely fits the subject matter. Most times I don’t say or sing it out loud because I understand that it can get quite tiresome for others but it’s still happening in my head. Sometimes I also get bits and pieces of movie dialog, even if I don’t remember what movie something is from.

    “#5 is alive”

  2. Darren Daz Cox replied:

    Everytime I walk on the beach, I am surrounded by New York and New Jersey and the musical associations come thick and fast. Often I find myself busting out a RunDmc or Beastie Boys lyric, sometimes I remember seeing Bon Jovi (way back in 1987 with my ex-fiance, sometimes I think of how my friend Biff Brown and I made fun of Bruce Springsteen. But when I think of The Ramones and Sha Na Na I think that I am in a great spot!

  3. captainstardust replied:

    when i was an art student i used to paint and write poetry simultaneously. i mean that a painting and poem would evolve together over the course of days or weeks, while i worked on both, and in my mind they were a symbiotic pair. for this reason i’ve always been interested in poetry about art, which i recently learned is called ekphrasis. which i think would make this an ekphrastic post?

    my mind does the same, linking together words and images from my surroundings and my memory. i love songs that are about specific places i know and love, or that seem to me to be about them… “Good to Be Home” by the everybodyfields is about my hometown, and even mentions the library where i work and the bar where my friends hang out; i suspect that, no matter where i go, that song will always bring me back to this place in time. “Grace Cathedral Hill” by the Decemberists is about my other home, in san francisco. in fact i used to live across the street from Grace Cathedral, and the song can take me back there in an instant.

    to add a third dimension to this mental meandering, sometimes a line of text or lyrics can create an image so concrete in my mind that i have to render it myself… the best example of this is the painting i did last week. one line in one song reminded me of a dream i had had and generated a concrete image in my head; i held it there as firmly as i could till i got home and threw it onto paper.

  4. Karen Swim replied:

    Amy this is a great photo! I think our human tendency is to always associate imagery with something familiar, whether a memory, lyric, poem or line of text. It is our way of connecting to the world around us. We humans are truly associative beings as eloquently illustrated in “No Man Is An Island.” Without making those associations or connections we feel disconnected. You always inspire such great discussion and reflection, Amy!


  5. On a Limb with Claudia replied:

    Very nice! They are starting to repaint those signs here in Denver. Weird to see them too because they are so bright. Of course, they don’t advertise cigarettes or a night for 25 cents… beer. Great association, Amy! 🙂

  6. Dale replied:

    The Wm Carlos Williams Figure 5 connection is nice. I sometimes see the French countryside around me, though only in my imagination: Corot, Monet, Cezanne.

  7. rlovison replied:


    If I were to guess I’d say different pieces of music play in my mind while I’m doing my photography. I don’t recall any specific events at the moment so I’ll have to pay more attention the next time I’m in the field. As I’m writing this “Center of the Universe” by the Eagles is on an endless loop. 🙂

  8. amypalko replied:

    Is that one from Short Circuit, Travelerstales? 😉

    Gabba gabba hey, Daz!

    That paining is just incredible, Captain Stardust! You are extremely talented.

    I think you’re onto something there, Karen. The need to connect, the need to construct narratives is what drives us to make these links between what we see and what we’ve seen/heard/experienced.

    Oh, I’d love to see them, Claudia. Maybe you could take some pics of them?

    Dale, I have always wanted to go to Monet’s garden. When I go, I’ll most certainly share my photos with you 🙂

    That’s not such a bad song to have on an endless loop, Richard!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Trackback URI

%d bloggers like this: