Thursday, May 13, 2010

Connection in Twilight

My friend Jon is the most linear thinking person I know. He often thinks the connections that I make between ideas and images are absolutely random and arbitrary. When I say that one image seems to reference another, he doesn't see any sense in what I say. Partly, it is because I have a difficult time explaining the connections myself. What do you think? What do you think is the relationship between the images/ideas we come up with and the images/ideas we've encountered? What does it mean to say that the things we create are shaped by or referencing the things that have already been created? How aware are you of where your visual vocabulary and aesthetic repertoire comes from?

Here is another example of where I see a new piece of art referencing another. When I saw this Julia Fullerton-Batten photograph yesterday, my mind immediately jumped to the image of Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose. I googled the second image but the more I looked at it, the more I was unsure of what my initial connection between the two was. Perhaps it was because I've always associated the second image with fireflies, even though it is about no such thing--the girls are lighting lanterns. Perhaps it is the girls in white dresses at twilight. Perhaps it is another image I have seen but forgotten and have mistaken for this one. I don't know. But as I look on, there still seems some visceral connection between the two images...

Julia Fullerton-Batten

Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose
 John Singer Sargent
Collection of the Tate


  1. I love both of these images. I haven't seen either before. I see connections in images (and ideas) that I can't explain pretty often. I'm always saying/thinking "that reminds me of something" and I think it's real (not arbitrary) but some people have that intuition, and others don't. You have a great eye for patterns, you see connections in a way that is definitiely beyond me, and I think it's from your artistic training. I love your blog posts that show connections between things! Spot on every time! So fun. My ability to see connections is more limited, but I think it partly come from the images/ideas we've experienced and partly comes from who/what we are as individuals. If you and Jon lived the exact same life, saw the exact same images/ideas, I still think different stuff would come out, right? But none of it is ex nihilo. 90% recycled. 10% me-made. or something like that. "In the beginning" the originals were made, everything after is only partly original. Or at least that's my first theory. ;D

  2. Jon, must be a very special guy. In fact, he must be the most brilliant person alive. I hope one day to be as brilliant as Jon.

    As for your post, I'm sure Jon would say:

    Everyone sees connections. Who hasn't had an experience, e.g., seeing a cloud in the sky and thinking "why, that looks dog." Some people go "beyond" this in that they see more connections than others, like yourself in these pictures you find or draw.

    (2.) As for the connections themselves, it's probably that entity x (say, a cloud) and entity y (say, a dog) have salient features that are alike. So when we go about our daily lives and say to ourselves, "this reminds me of this or that" [images or not] we're noticing salient features and the mind seems to recall this or that thing. One reason this amazing guy named Jon maybe confused is that there are infinite amounts of connections you can make. Your incredible handsome friend Jon shares this similarity with a blade of grass: both are objects, both exist. No one says a blade of grass reminds me of a blade of grass because they are both objects. But not all connections are so trivial. Take the blade of grass example. A blade of grass may remind you of your friend or friends in the sense that both are fleeting existences here on earth. Now that's a sort of connection that isn't trivial. Many a song has been written on themes such as this. So the key is to be able to pick out the right connections. What are the right ones? Depends on the situation. A good rule of thumb is that it should be obvious or you should be able to explain it.

    3. Also, I'm sure your amazing friend Jon would point out that you need to be precise. Let me explain: say you see a guy in a prayerful position with palms turned upwards. This reminds you of another picture with a person in a somewhat similar position, like the picture of (I believe) Aquinas you posted earlier. Well, here we have to be careful. Does the picture remind you of: (a) this actual picture of Aquinas, or (b) the similar body position of Aquinas (which just happens to be in this particular Aquinas picture) to this other picture, or (c) a fusion of (a) and (b) -- the actual picture of Aquinas IN VIRTUE of the similar body positions.

    Just some thoughts....

  3. I agree with Bob. You're so amazing Bob.


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