Sunday, September 18, 2011

What you see...is what you get



In the 1960's Donald Egolf, a research Horticulturalist at the National Arboretum, began hybridizing Crape Myrtle Trees (Lagerstroemia.)   His goal was to create a tree that was resistant to powdery mildew.  Before he ever discovered a cross that successfully resisted the mildew, he managed to create trees that stood up to the cold, that had varying heights,habits, flower colors, fall foliage colors, and bark characteristics.  A man with a different attitude may have given up.  From an outsider's perspective, unintended positive traits could be seen as repeated failure instead of  success.  For many years there was disparity between his achievement and his goal.  However, as a result of the lengthy disparity, 24 types of Crape Myrtles were introduced.  Had he succeeded on his first try in the fight against powdery mildew we might not have all the varieties we see in the nurseries today.

And so I pose these questions: In life, do you spend your time in the negative space between where you are and where you thought you'd be?  Do you value things intrinsically or do you only value them based on an outside standard? 

Once I saw a painting of a white gardenia, on a dark lush background.  I attempted to recreate the painting in a mosaic form.  When the mosaic was completed, I hated it because it didn't look like the painting.  It had no value to me because it didn't compare well with the vision in my mind of something else.  Months later I came across it.  The light hit the pieces in a such a way that it was full of texture and depth. I started to appreciate the mosaic for itself.  Not it's value compared to what inspired it, but it's intrinsic value as a mosaic.  Was it pretty?  Was it intricate? Was it interesting?  Yes,yes and yes.  Whether or not it looked like original painting became irrelevant.  Making comparisons hardly ever aids in creativity because nothing begets nothing.  Adding negatives never produces a positive. Fixating on emptiness is not a way to be filled.

This summer I thought a lot about the significance of perspective.  Day to day, a satisfying life comes from recognizing things for what they are instead of focusing on what they aren't. The disparity between what things are and what you think they should be is negative space. In photography and art, the negative space can be vehicles for the feeling the piece is trying to evoke. The art is intended to make you feel a certain way. But in  real life negative space only contains two things: Potential and disappointment. Potential to fill the space, disappointment that the space exists. There must be a better place to focus.  There must be something richer to see.

What do you see?  Is it something alive, something with momentum?  See what life is...forget what life isn't.

Abraham Lincoln said it best:
Photo by LAM

"We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses."


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