Friday, May 29, 2015

POST #87: THE AESTHETICS OF ANYWHERE …or how to never be bored

We never sent our children to summer camp. My husband (a child psychologist) felt that they had enough structure in their lives during the year and should have their summers free. Since there were three of them, close in age, and I worked at home, we were able to pull this off. The oldest, a scholar, liked to read so he was content with frequent trips to the library. My youngest had lots of friends and “playdates” and enjoyed going to thrift shops with me. And my middle child, the one who became an “environmental artist,” had a world all his own that kept him occupied. We have a small stone and concrete pond on our property, no more than 6” deep. Every spring, it fills up with rainwater and a lively aquatic life moves in: salamanders, tree frogs, water striders and a large variety of insect life. He would pass his summers happily engrossed in the pond, maybe not what you or I might find fascinating, but perfect for him. He still spends a lot of time looking at clouds and weather and rock formations...and turns them into art. I just got some photos from him from Vancouver Island showing me some intertwined strands of black and white sand he had just discovered.

Small versions of Stonehenge's "menhirs" hold up local mailboxes
I thought about this while walking up Webb’s Hill Road a few days ago with my friend Elena. She’s an artist-architect and a kindred soul. Webb’s Hill is not a hill for conversation. It’s one of the steepest climbs in Stamford and at one time, until Long Ridge Road was constructed in the mid 1800s, was a rural path, the “high road” that connected Stamford to Bedford Village. I feel sorry for the poor beasts of burden that had to carry wagonloads up the incline. It’s great, however, for wordlessly observing nature and Elena and I found lots of “art” to look at, some of it natural, others (inadvertently) man made.

Photo by Elena Kalman
The first thing we noticed were the weird tar lines that went up and down the road in irregular patterns. I thought at first they were drips from machines that repaired potholes, but then, shouldn’t they drip in a straight line? Why do they meander, go back and forth, over and under, creating skeins of black tar in beautiful abstract patterns that look like Chinese or Persian calligraphy? Elena tells me she sees them everywhere and has been photographing them for a while. They bring to mind those gigantic Andean images that can only be seen from the sky.

Along the way we encountered tree fungi that looked like prehistoric mushrooms; we saw huge, convoluted burls guaranteed to make a wood worker’s heart pound in anticipation, plus lots of exquisitely patterned tree trunk barks. We stopped to admire all sorts of rocks, aggregates of quartz, mica and granite, as well as a great variety of plant life, both accidental and deliberate. There’s even a pair of standing stones, gatepost sentinals that look like menhirs, the upright monoliths one would find at Stonehenge

On the way home, I added to my collection of squashed cans. I like them messy,  dirty and decayed. In fact, to make them more interesting, I’ve been known to kick them back into the road to add to their patina. When they’ve reached an appropriate level of grunge, I mount them on black Velcro and place them in small, baroque frames, part of a series I’ve been working on for years called “Found on the Ground.” If you’re looking for beauty, you don’t need to go very far. 

1 comment:

  1. Loved this blog ! &, you're talking my language, since photography was or is my profession..On many occasions I've photographed inanimate objects or, ECU's, extreme close-ups, of objects from nature that fascinated me. Think of Edward Weston's series, close-ups of peppers, or, Irving Penn's series of used cigarette butts, to name a few.
    Over the 30 years I worked in NYC, I would photograph aluminum cans, that had been run over by cars & totally imbedded into the asphalt, due to summer heat. Singly, or in clusters, they often formed bizarre abstract images. I once thought of having an exhibition, which I would have titled: "The Street's of New York"...DGP