Thursday, June 21, 2007
WWZD? What Would Zappa Do?
This says it all for me! Check this shot from the Santa Barbara Mission. Dasylirion longissima with a Euphorbia resinifera. This composition was just sitting there in a grouping of large pots, minding it's own business, paying no attention to me. The perfection of the juxtaposition of the dark green needle-like leaves and the ghostly stout vertical architecture of the euphorbs say it all.
For me, it was like entering a sacred temple where a master had been, and feeling the presence of wisdom. Have you ever looked at a Japanese sumi-e scroll? A few gestural lines, seemingly unconscious, but capturing the essence of its subject in just a few strokes of the brush. That's what masterful, zen-like plant composition does for me.
I've been math phobic since 8th grade when I was put in an accelerated algebra class, so I can't say I completely get it when I hear about mathematicians who see beauty in equations. But when I look at a simple yet brilliant plant composition, for me it's all about ratios and proportions and rhythm.
In the composition above, how much dark green does it take to balance 'X' amount of pale gray-green? The central upright clump of dark green repeats the rigid vertical of the foreground, but then, to create the contrast that any fine work of art needs, gravity pulls the outer leaves into a soft arch, then lays them nearly horizontal.
If this composition were music, it would be about variations on a theme, in this case cylindrical forms in varying scales. And just to complicate things slightly, there are those tiny magenta flower buds topping the euphorb, sort of like random notes borrowed from a Frank Zappa musing.
No disrespect intended, but keep your pink and lavender and yellow and mauve Martha Stewart flower beds. Your cone flowers and roses and brown-eyed susans and glads. Gimme plants used as sculpture, as unresolved conflict, as an expression of the vast varieties of form and texture and foliage color that will keep me designing for the next century. Nuff for now.