2015: The Year of Symmetry
December 26th, 2014
Light. Shadow. Up. Down. Grow. Shrink. Create. Destroy. Left. Right. Off. On. Open. Closed. Rhyme. Reason.
As a classically trained painter, I learned to avoid symmetry. The way to keep the eye interested in your two dimensional surface was to stay a little off balance. Symmetry is boring.
However, I’ve decided lately that I like boring.
In fact, I’m aspiring for boring this year.
“Happy families are all alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” –Tolstoy, the first line of Anna Karenina
When I was in art school, one of my professors told a story about Piet Mondrian. I can’t find anything anywhere that actually substantiates this as a factual story, but the story sticks with me, and since truth is often present even without facts, I’m sharing it here.
Basically, the premise of the story is that Mondrian and another painter were often working together and inspiring one another, when an important patron noticed their work and began supporting them. They continued working together and began exploring Cubism and more Avant Garde work, veering away from the landscapes that started their careers. But the patron didn’t like the new work.
So Mondrian’s friend returned to the familiar, traditional landscapes that sold well, because he had a family. Mondrian jilted his fiancee and left for Paris, where he revolutionized the art world. We don’t even remember the friend’s name.
When my teacher told us that, he was trying to inspire us to artistic greatness. He said something about “selling out” and encouraged us to think of our legacy as artists.
But I might’ve burst that bubble. I raised my hand.
“They’re still both dead, right?”
My instructor paused and looked at me with a bewildered expression. “What’s your point, Jolie?”
And here at this moment, I solidified a core tenet of how I wanted to life my life.
“I’m just saying, sir, that the unnamed painter was able to feed his family and support himself doing something he loved, right? He made a living as a painter, and presumably had a boring and happy life in the Netherlands. Mondrian died alone in a studio in Brooklyn, far from his family and anyone that he loved. Sure, he came to be recognized as a genius, and we admire his work now, but that doesn’t matter to him anymore, because he’s dead. I’d rather live happily and be forgotten, than be miserable and well-remembered.”
Now, of course, I realize the truth is probably somewhere between those two extremes. The unnamed painter probably felt frustrated and bored occasionally. Maybe his wife was a nag, or one of his kids was a brat. Mondrian likely still had friends and smiled on a regular basis, even though he stuck to his principles and created a legacy.
But if I’m choosing between interesting as fraught with drama and angst, or boring and happy. I choose boring and happy. Because, in pottery symmetry is the goal. Pots that are off-balance don’t work.
Maybe that means you don’t want to read or notice my work here anymore. Maybe you’re only here hoping to see a train wreck. Feel free to click the little red circle at the top and close this window.
Because I’m aiming for the most boring year ever. And I dare you to be boring, too.
(More about 2015 coming soon.)