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.
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.
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 shirtwoot.com 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.
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.
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.
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.
The 3 Fates are found in Greek and Roman mythology. I explored the Fates many years ago when I was an under graduate. My interpretation was abstract and reflected the ideas of indestructible youth.
I seemed to be focused more on the idea of 3 and not so much on the implications of the Fates.
It is the fates that determine your life and its end. That is pretty significant stuff. The first fate is Clotho the spinner. She spins and weaves the thread of life . My concept of Clotho has changed a lot over the years. I see her currently being represented by a bird, building weaving compulsively. The bird just felt right. I have always seen birds as magical, smart and iconic, timeless fragile and enduring. I also wanted the concept of the fates to be more personal. Clotho is the spinner but she is also the beginning of life, the journey and the dance. It must then include youth and life from a beginning. The first Fate includes a portrait of Lucy my newest grand daughter. The inclusion of portraits of family members adds the tie that I am looking for. I started laying out this first Fate image and will include some of the sketches soon.
I am turning 64 in January 2015. That represents a lot of time, a lot of birthdays and a lot of experience. Time and the passage of time has been a recurring theme in my artwork. I find it fascinating to see what time will take away and what it will leave behind.
When I was younger it was a fascination, now it is a reality. When my parents died I remember having the feeling that I was moving closer to the head of the line. It was a disconcerting feeling. Not that I was fearful of death but there was a realization that time is also limited for each of us. From the day we are born we begin the aging process and a dance with Death. This, I now realize is not a bad thing. It is a dance, a give and take a back and forth. Some of us get to dance for a long time while others only get a short waltz, but we all dance. I have always enjoyed Hans Holbein’s series of prints he entitled “Dance of Death”. These prints are of Death as he comes for you and often we don’t see him coming.
My artwork is lately about my thoughts on time and aging and death and Life. Reading the obituaries can put time in perspective and keep me motivated to set priorities of what is truly important
My current project is about the 3 Fates. One that weaves the thread of life, one that measure it and one that cuts it. My thoughts and ideas on the first fate next time.
Thanks for following.
I have been thinking for a long time about starting a blog. I have to admit I am rather old school. When I was growing up technology was in the form of a slide ruler. The very idea of a ruler that does math has long been over shadowed by the simplest advances. A blog in general was a bit intimidating. A professional blog is downright scary. None the less I am taking the plunge and hope that it may at least be of interest or value to someone.
As I often say about art, it is what it is.
Here we go!