Wednesday, January 19, 2011

So here I am in my apartment, having started the day by sketching the flowers on the windowsill. When you try to come up with marks that read as chrysanthemums, you do begin to understand Van Gogh and Japanese art. The trick is to avoid photographic representation and rather to provide a language, a transcription, a translation, a geomantic summons of the Family Asteraceae.

Driving down to New York this time, I stopped at a Barnes & Noble in Norwalk to pick up a map of New York State. Maps that you can lay out on the table are far superior to the disjointed bits of information dispensed by the smartphone or the 27" display where an involuntary flick of the wireless mouse can transport you instantly from the spaghetti junction at Worcester, MA to the twilight zone of Central OH. And then what? How to get back? Paper maps allow me to possess my territory, to locate myself in space, to see my path, to know - for future reference - what other paths I might have taken.

But maps, useful as they are, lack the smell, sound, movement and dimensionality of the "real" world. The perceived/received world is always changing itself and changing us, and so provides a richer source for visual language than any given by a printed or digital layout. This is why I am always so delighted to come into my light-filled Brooklyn apartment and find the vase of florist's brilliant yellow mums  - and why I am equally pleased to be out among the profligate early yellow buttercups and late spikes of goldenrod in Lincolnville.