Daily Archives: April 26, 2018

Timeout for Art: Wabi-Sabi (April A~Z Challenge)

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Well, clearly this photograph is not a depiction of my art. It is a good example, though, of Wabi-Sabi, which plays an important role in my art work.

“Wabi-Sabi is a beauty of things imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete.

It is a beauty of things modest and humble.

It is a beauty of things unconventional.

When computers, methods of graphic design and new technology enabled a level of perfection in art that was impossible before, the concept of Wabi-Sabi was redemption. My art would never be perfect. I am sloppy in my work habits, careless in measuring, and unskilled in the tools that would take these imperfections away. Beyond that, I’m not at all convinced I would ever want to. I like fabrics that show wear, objects worn smooth by handling, and walls that hold layers of paint and paper.

At Crampton Park, in Lapeer, Michigan where I grew up, there is an ancient willow tree that grows almost sideways, fed by and leaning down toward the waters of the Flint River. When my daughters were small, they scampered up that tree, slid along its trunk, and jumped off the one-foot drop into the sand…as a hundred other children had done before them. Evidence to that fact was the horizontal surface of the tree trunk: bare of bark and polished to a high gloss by the many little pairs of dungarees that scooted across it. That is beautiful to me.

When I visit a city, I look for signs of its history. The sleek new metal and glass structures do not interest me. I am drawn to the railings worn smooth by a thousand hands, the floors that have pathways worn into them from all of the feet that have walked there. I am attracted to the sides of buildings where layer upon layer of advertising reveals the past, in fragments. That is beautiful to me.

In art, I like to see the hand of the artist at work. I don’t want smoothed out brushstrokes, or to have a misguided line erased away. To see the path that the artist took to get to the finished product is a gift. I feel that gift when I look at the heavy marks of the brush left in a painting by Van Gogh; I can almost imagine that I am looking right over his shoulder as he works, his strokes are so vivid.

So, in my own work, I embrace the imperfection, the humble materials, the layers that reflect my process, and the stages that have led me to the completion of a piece. I’m afraid I couldn’t achieve perfection if I wanted it. Fortunately, that is not my goal!