GARDEN OF LOVE
It was one of those fortuitous strokes we make every now and then which, once
accomplished, seem so natural as to make us wonder they don't happen more frequently,
while it's probably true that those seemingly wasted, frustrating hours that preceded the
lucky inspiration were its necessary precursors.
I had been fooling around with a program that allows children to "paint" with their fingers
on the computer screen and, having made something that simultaneously intrigued and
annoyed me, I was engaged in staring at the image, searching for the sources of my
fascination and my discontent.
It's an abstract picture - blobs of yellow, streaks of green and red, a background of hazy
blue. On a whim I turned the program back on and, in thin magenta "pencil", scrawled
across the image Garden of Love.
All at once I loved it. On the one hand the description, Garden of Love, endows an
ambiguous image with concrete meaning that now exists in harmonious tension with its
purely aesthetic qualities. On the other hand those magenta squiggles become part of
the painting. In color and in line they contrast effectively with the amorphous pastels
upon which they seem to lie. The neat, traditional division between work and title, word
and deed, is dissolved, and an interpretation is thrust upon us in a manner that alters the
act of viewing, the process of understanding. (I think that if God were to divulge to you
the meaning of life you'd respond with a similar mixture of gratitude and annoyance.)
But the really disconcerting and, I think, serendipitous, touch is the rendering of the
title, Garden of Love: it is not so much inscribed as scribbled, graffiti - style, across the
original image, in such a way that the lines of demarcation between high art and pop
culture, silliness and sublimity, are blurred, and I readily admit that this blurring was not
intended: it was fortuitous, as I said, and probably thanks to that it's effective.
In fact, blurring the lines of demarcation, or confusing conventional categories, or
discovering, fostering, celebrating ambiguity, is what I mostly enjoy doing these days, an
exercise by which, I understand, I come belatedly to an aesthetic stance common in the
latter part of the previous century. (I'm not copying history, I'm making it again, all by
myself, but I'm a little slow.)
And so I find other questions this little image serves to raise.
Is it a painting or a photograph? One finds traces of a human touch alongside
evidence of mechanical processes.
Is it original or derivative? Now that it's made I see a resemblance to Kandinsky's
famous painting of the same name as well as to Jardin d'Amour by Hans Hofmann.
And what's a Garden of Love anyway? An earthly paradise of sensuous delights?
A primordial realm of spirit from which our lost souls have wandered? Neither? Both?
Is this what art can do - resolve the contradictions and paradoxes of language
through the transcendental power of beauty? If so perhaps enough has been said, and
what's needed is more art. That's what follows: a series of child-like photo-paintings with
integrated titles. This is not the direction I imagined for myself a little while ago, which
might indicate that growing older (which is inevitable) provides an opportunity for growing
wiser (as in less certain, more open) so that, while art may not change the world, it might
encourage us toward that state of humility and wonder that life deserves and that death