Friday, April 8, 2011

An ODE to CONTRAST (verse 1)

Peripheral vision may be our greatest weapon against ignorance.  Your eyes don't need to stray more than an inch before they might bump into a view of reality that is startlingly different from your own:

Matter and antimatter coexist in this catalog of classes from the Learning Annex
Of course, we can't always rely on our peripheral vision.  Sometimes we have to seek out contrasting views.   For example, if you were a young woman with artistic talent in the 1950s, you might find this type of ad quite persuasive:
Just look at my art director!
But unless you took the extra effort to check out what was going on in magazines for young men, you might never realize that the same art schools were wooing your male counterparts with a very different set of promises:

Do you like Art?

This may explain why some people argue that the best way to avoid unhappiness is to wear blinders.  If you try to reconcile two conflicting extremes you'll only end up confused and frustrated.

But for me, I'd say that in art-- as in life-- contrast is one of your very best friends.  Elements of a picture, when set in opposition to each other, can heighten the effect of the whole.  The task of balancing opposing elements forces us to develop more complex and sensitive vocabularies, and to be alert for subtler shades of meaning.  With these enhanced vocabularies we can flesh out a more profound range of thoughts and feelings.  Contrast is the place where the enriching force is born.

By merely selecting locations between the top and the bottom of the musical scale, Beethoven composed great symphonies. By selecting places between the top and bottom of the value scale, artists compose great pictures. The aesthetic character of a line, for example, is determined by an artist's selections on the continuum between rough and smooth, or between delicate and bold.

This week will be my ode to contrast.  Each day I'll post a different example of contrast in picture making.  Let's see if we can have some fun.

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