Round wheels vs Square

In 1965 UCLA zoologists did a study to determine if mice preferred round exercise wheels or square ones. Mice were given round exercise wheels for a period of time and then they were traded out for square ones.  Then the mice were given a choice of either square or round wheels.  The majority of mice chose the square wheels.  Go figure.  It was theorized that the mice preferred the square wheels because they were more challenging, requiring more coordination as they jumped the corners as much as 9 times per second. What does this have to do with art and Aesthetics you ask?  Let me see if I can make a connection.

In 2001 a study was done at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  The average time spent looking at a piece of art was 17 seconds.  Another study done at the Louvre showed that the average time spent looking at the acclaimed Mona Lisa was a mere 15 seconds. I don’t know if the studies took into consideration the shows on exhibit or the number of people crowded in front of the work but the point is, people seem to feel they can grasp the meaning of a piece of art very quickly.  Oh yea they will say, that is a landscape or that is a portrait or a depiction of the crucifixion and so on. Amazing technique they may say. When meaning is easily depicted we are able to take in the work rather quickly.  Like a round exercise wheel.  Works that seem to have a deeper meaning than the initial impact make looking at art more challenging, It requires more time to gather the information.

Max Beckman is a good example of art that for me is in the square wheel category. Here are two works that I consider having square wheels that require more time to gather meaning.


Who are these people and why are they gathered in this strange space?  The man with the mask is a self portrait of the artist. Why is he wearing a mask?

Are these people relatives or family?  Why the saxophone on the floor? 

The questions are endless and for me the interest is also endless.  


What is a trapeze act doing in an interior that is much too small?

Who are these performers that look like a tangle of marionettes.

The works are fascinating, beautiful and intriguing.

I am drawn to them to try to grasp the meaning that is surely there and am happy to invest more time in the process.

I may never grasp what Max Beckman is trying to convey exactly but I find having to jump the corners well worth the investment of time.

In my own work I endeavor to have at least a bit of square wheel and hopefully engage my audience for longer than 17 seconds.

The Little Things

It is the little things that really matter.  Not that the big things are not important, they are. Maybe it is the things that we lose that really become important.  I have lots of big things to be grateful for.  I am running, biking, doing some weight training at the Y, playing racquetball and even some yoga.  I am even in the middle of a major home renovation. I got a lot of the big stuff. I am pretty functional. It is the little things that I find myself wishing for.  The ability to write a simple sentence or my name. (granted my signature has been unreadable for decades.) But when I sign something now and it looks like it should, I now give myself a mental high five.  The little thing of being able to shave with one hand, or shine a pair of shoes without making an afternoon project of it. Sometimes it is the ability to form words and speak without a little slur or swallow without effort.  You know the little things.  In life I think it is the little things that also mean the most. It is not the grandiose gesture but the small tender act of kindness that become great in its simplicity.  Perhaps a small blessing of PD is a greater appreciation of the little things, both the ones I still have and the ones I’ve losing.

What is it like to have Parkinson’s?

No one asks but I think that the question is there.  You look fine and sound fine so what is it like from your side?  The description most often used is that it is like doing everything under water. It is slow and awkward.  Small movements sometimes are almost impossible.  Hand writing can be like being in first grade with a giant pencil and neither you nor the pencil can make the lines go where you want. I tell myself that just because I am going slow doesn’t mean I am not going somewhere, but that doesn’t make going slow any better.

Well at least it doesn’t hurt! Truth is it does.  I am stiff most of the time, it hurts to get out of a chair, out of a car or out of bed.  It hurts because the medications can make me nauseas, and I am forever tired and I seldom sleep great. It hurts when those close to you are watching you to make sure you are ok. It is embarrassing when words don’t form right and it is hard when swallowing is so hard that the joy of food is diminished. It hurts to know that those closest to you now have the label of “care giver”.

All that said, my faith teaches me that one of the gifts of mortality is to gain experience and that there must be opposition in all things.  You cannot experience joy without understanding pain, good without bad.  PD has made the sweetness of my life all the sweeter. The love of those around, me supporting me, all the more healing. Life can be hard but that doesn’t mean it is not good.  Sometimes my whistle has a vibrato that just won’t go away.

“Anyone who imagines that bliss is normal is going to waste a lot of time running around shouting that he’s been robbed. The fact is that most putts don’t drop. Most beef is tough. Most children grow up to be just ordinary people. Most successful marriages require a high degree of mutual toleration. Most jobs are more often dull than otherwise. . . .

Life is like an old-time rail journey—delays, sidetracks, smoke, dust, cinders, and jolts, interspersed only occasionally by beautiful vistas and thrilling bursts of speed. The trick is to thank the Lord for letting you have the ride.”

Jenkin Lloyd Jones

 I thank the Lord everyday for the ride of a lifetime and the marvelous adventure it is.

Exercise – Push yourself

My neurologist commented that I should push myself and that exercise is the most important treatment to stave off PD. With that tasty bit of information I have been trying to do that, push myself.  I had been biking 10 miles at a time.  Is that pushing myself, I thought. Well I like to bike and I do sweat but I could ride farther, so I biked 15 miles.  Then I started to think, where does it stop, 20 miles, 30 miles.  I don’t have time to ride for 4 hours every day. It could make a person go crazy.  I found this shirt design at that seemed to fit my situation.


I sometimes feel like I am being pursued by a monster and I have to stay ahead of it.  Some days I am out in front maintaining my distance and other days I can feel the monster’s breath on the back of my tired stiff neck.  I guess one of the small blessings of PD is the incentive factor to exercise and find the time to do it and enjoy the process.  I will take all the small victories and positives I can get.

Waxing Philosophical

This section of my website is a very personal one. About 2 years ago I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. It started out with a problem with my hand writing. I would start writing and then the letters would quickly begin to degrade getting smaller and smaller and finally just becoming an awkward scribble. Initially I thought it was something like carpel tunnel, an easy fix. But it wasn’t carpel tunnel. When the final diagnosis came down it seemed surreal. I thought wow, I did not see that coming. Now what do I do? What will the outcome be? Can I still draw? Will I still be able to make prints?

I have felt a need to write about my experience with this disease, why I am not sure. But even being somehow compelled to write about my Parkinson’s it is still hard. Writing it down and making it public somehow makes it more real, more acute.

It is strange that before you have something you feel like it is rather exclusive, like buying a red car. After you have the red car, it seems like there are many more than you ever expected. Now that I have Parkinson’s, the disease pops up seemingly all the time. Apparently there are a lot of us out there. Unfortunately that is not a good thing. Give me the red car instead.

This area of my website will give me the space to wax philosophical on Parkinson’s as well as other topics that may relate to my life, my art, my family, my spirituality and other matters of importance.

Two Simple Groups of Art

I divide art simply into 2 groups. That which is beautiful in and of itself and that which is beautiful and then presents me with questions, something to consider.  Here is an example of the beautiful.

The Beautiful


This print is small only about 6×6 inches.  It is stunning.  It captures the delicacy and life of the rose even without color.  I bought this print purely for its beauty.  It doesn’t need a title.  It is what it is, beauty.

The Beautiful with Comments and or Questions embedded.


This print of mine I also consider to be beautiful.  It has color and form and all it requires to be beautiful.  It also has a subtext that must be determined by the viewer.  If the meaning is not gleaned it will function just fine on its beauty.  On the other hand if the subtext is discovered then it asks questions to bring a deeper meaning.  In my work the title provides a partial key to the questions that underlie the image.

The title is “Two extinct species meet, each supposing the other to be more successful.” If you unravel the puzzle I hope that the visual communication is asking these questions…

What is success?  Who determines success?  Is money or wealth involved? Can an extinct species still be successful?  How do we compare ourselves to others?  What is the criteria for comparison? Are any of these comparisons valid. Etc. etc.


I believe that all art can be divided into these two groups.  One is not above the other nor should either suppose the other to be more successful.