Bird Don’t Care

I made a painting about fifteen years ago that still informs my thinking about space.  The canvas is about 24”w x 20”h. The image consists of a white isosceles trapezoid with a vertical black line through the middle, top to bottom.  This shape floats in a sea of mid-range and deep purple encaustic brushstrokes, expressionistic and drippy, with about an equal amount of negative space all around.

Staring at the painting makes me feel like I am sitting halfway up the stands at midfield of an empty stadium.  There is nothing going on, the field would be an empty rectangle, if seen from above. It might be a soccer pitch at night, all lit up, or an indoor basketball court.  This is sort of true about looking at paintings in general.  

The painting works for me because the white shape very easily shifts duty between abstract shape and representational site. The site contains a perspective that matches the geometry of an isosceles trapezoid when looked at straight on.  So a third space is there too, geometric space.

It becomes a zone for meditation.  It is easily reproducible and very common so I think of it often.  Similar trancelike effects can be derived by the one point perspective of a receding triangular roadway as we drive straight ahead toward a horizon for miles and miles deep in thought.

Recently, I was driving along a straight road when out of the corner of my eye, up in the sky and to the left, I caught sight of a dive-bombing hawk moving downward toward its prey in the grass on the right side of the roadway. I could see that it was a small bunny out of the corner of my other eye. As I drove forward, the car slid under the hawk. But airborne, he continued on an unaltered path and snatched the prey as I passed.  Visible in my rearview mirror was the bird returning to the sky, triumphant.

I was driving along inside of my own perfectly triangular space at even speed so the effect was like that of a sword slashing at my trajectory downward and to the right completely visible to me in a way as never before.  The bird had no such limitations or predeterminations about space and was simply taking the shortest route between two points.  

Wartime bombardments and lightning strikes were two immediate thoughts.  A rethinking of spatial standards and golf courses have followed.

Since this episode I have observed birds in flight with a great deal more interest.  The payoff, of being forcefully dislodged from the peaceful status quo, has been worthwhile.

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