Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Of Art, Fashion and Gardening


This is a photo of the garden about a mile from my house. The photo was taken about a year and some ago. The gentleman who planted the garden finally made the choice to put himself in assisted living. A middle aged couple bought the house late this spring. Immediately the blasphemy began.

First let me describe what makes this garden so special. Its maker was so restrained in his design focusing on textures, specifically the textures of evergreens: picea, mugo pines, dwarf spruce, golden thujas, juniper. The shades of green- from blue to yellow- were stunning. He then created sparkle by dropping in heaths and heathers. The dainty blossoms of pink & purple were about all the excitement this garden could stand. It was elegance defined- and all by an amateur gardener!

The new owners' blasphemy included digging out a stand of red twigged dogwood, which provided winter interest, to put in a circle of white phlox, Star Gazer Lilies, birdbath & gazing ball. Each of these things on their own, or perhaps in a different setting, would be fine. In this garden of cool contrasts and restrained elegance it felt an awful lot like like bringing a Vegas showgirl to a society cotillion.


The other day I had three older women come into my gallery- a private reunion for some Wellesley roommates. Each of them were dressed so superbly. They were each aware of their body types, body limitations and what might come across as too trendy as opposed to stylish. Their accessories were perfect. They has the most beautiful jewelry- not too much! Just the right amount. Even their make up was not noticeable next to the fine shine of their natural assets.

Where do women learn to dress like this? Wellesley?


For years I have pondered the differences are between good art and bad art. Don't expect the answer in this post. Philosophers have been pondering it for millennium. Don't expect a Podunk NH art dealer to answer the big question.

I have noticed that good artists apply their paint (or whatever medium) with confidence. The tentative stroke is for those who haven't spent time, time, time developing a masterful one. Please don't ask me to describe a good stroke. I have had this conversation with many artists I respect who are equally mystified by trying to describe it. We fall back on the old trope of "I know it when I see it."

Along with the confidence in knowing how to apply one's medium comes the confidence to know when to stop. The amateur cannot resist fixing just one more thing. This almost always comes at the expense of the painting. It becomes over worked and muddy, the strokes become labored and wooden, the frustration mounts and it all becomes clear on the canvas. A good painting feels effortless and will sing with a sort of internal vibrancy.


I aspire to achieve the heights in all of these categories- art, fashion and gardening. I don't think I am shallow but that visual things give me huge pleasure and satisfaction. The world is interpreted through my eyes. I don't think many people see me as particularly fashionable, but I look for clothes that complement me and make me comfortable and feel good. I would like to think I cut a reasonably stylish figure. Some people might think me an art snob and others an art novice. I enjoy it at my level but am not afraid to reach for the next. My gardening is probably my most wooden achievement. Like many amateur artists I get caught up in the details at the expense of the big picture.

As I have stated before refinement come with paring back rather than adding more. Edit!

1 comment:

Blackswamp_Girl said...

This post makes me feel good about my recent itch to really, seriously edit my garden. It's not just admitting that I've overdone some areas; it's reaching for the next level. I like that idea much better--it's much more positive.

p.s. When you figure out where women learn to dress like that, please let me know. I'd like to visit that place and pick up some pointers.