Contradictory Abstractions: The Dynamic of Action / Reaction

Dynamic Simplicity by Maria L. Berg 2023

This morning I read, in Dialogue: The Art of Verbal Action for the Page, Stage, and Screen by Robert McKee, “Every consequential moment in life pivots around a dynamic of action/reaction. In the physical realm, reactions are equal, opposite, and predictable in obedience to Newton’s third law of motion; in the human sphere, the unforeseen rules. Whenever we take an important step, our world reacts—but almost never in the way we expect. From within us or around us come reactions we cannot and do not see coming. For no matter how much we rehearse life’s big moments, when they finally arrive, they never seem to work out quite the way we thought, hoped, or planned. The drama of life is an endless improvisation.”

If I relate this to dialectic thought, an action (thesis) gives rise to reaction (antithesis) which does not live up to expectation (conflict) which leads to a different action (thesis) which gives rise to reaction (antithesis) which does not meet expectation (conflict), and so it goes never to find synthesis (until the end of the novel that is, but not in real life). So is McKee unknowingly proposing and antithesis to Hegelian dialectics? And how can I fit the idea that every consequential moment, the moment I’m trying to capture, pivots around action/reaction?

Let’s move on from beauty and ugliness to the third call for action, “To find the happiness in misery and the misery in happiness; dismay the happy, or delight the miserable.” The action would be finding happiness in misery and a reaction could be finding the misery in happiness, thus finding both. Or, the action could be dismaying the happy and the reaction being delighting the miserable. There is a lot of action and reaction going on in my call to action for my art. Let’s look at the many possible combinations:

  1. action: find the happiness in misery and the misery in happiness – reaction: dismay the happy, or delight the miserable
  2. action: dismay the happy, or delight the miserable – reaction: find the happiness in misery and the misery in happiness
  3. action: find the happiness in misery – reaction: find the misery in happiness
  4. action: find the misery in happiness – reaction: find the happiness in misery
  5. action: dismay the happy – reaction: delight the miserable
  6. action: delight the miserable – reaction: dismay the happy
  7. action: find the happiness in misery – reaction: dismay the happy
  8. action: dismay the happy – reaction: find the happiness in misery
  9. action: find the happiness in misery – reaction: delight the miserable
  10. action: delight the miserable – reaction: find the happiness in misery
  11. action: find the misery in happiness – reaction: dismay the happy
  12. action: dismay the happy – reaction: find the misery in happiness
  13. action: find the misery in happiness – reaction: delight the miserable
  14. action: delight the miserable – reaction: find the misery in happiness

I think that covers it. So what am I looking at? Are each of those an image I want to create? Are they all aspects of one image? Are they all different consequential moments in the life of the continuum of happiness and misery?  I like the idea that they are fourteen different ways to approach finding my photograph that captures the essence of happiness and misery at the same time.

Action / Reaction as an aspect of contradictory abstractions made me think of Dynamic simplicity, an aspect of visual design that is emphasized in Photography and the Art of Seeing by Freeman Patterson.

Mr. Patterson says, “Simplicity brings order and stability to compositions . . . However, if everything were as simple as possible, life would be very boring. We need to balance order with tension, which brings movement, activity, and a sense of the dynamic both to our pictures and to our lives. . . . So pictorial composition, like living, always involves balancing tension against order.”

So is this dynamic of tension (action) and order (reaction? or synthesis?) the physical dialectic of my art?

Fan Dance by Maria L. Berg 2023

Today’s images were inspired by the work of Arthur Dove and Francis Picabia. Specifically Arthur Dove’s “Nature Symbolized No. 2″  (1911) reminded me of something I did back in April with Foolish, Ambition, and Cleave. I sliced up the printed photograph and spread it out like a fan. Today, I cut the center circle from my filter and cut it in curves then spread them out and taped the shape back in the open circle. Then, inspired by Francis Picabia’s orange and white ‘Dance” paintings (1912), I added my orange string lights, expecting them to not really take the shape but add a soft blurred edge in an attempt to replicate the interesting softness Picabia brought to his cubist surfaces. However, the orange lights replicated this shape clearly to nice effect.

Today’s Surprising Connection

This morning I started reading Complete Poems by Marianne Moore and came across a poem called “The Animals Sick of the Plague.” I recognized the title instantly as the play the kids put on for the New Year’s party in The Madness of Crowds by Louise Penny. I had never heard of that fable before I read Penny’s novel. Now here it is in the section of Marianne Moore’s poems called “Selections from The Fables of La Fontaine (1954).”

Contradictory Abstractions: The Synthesis of Beauty and Ugliness

Beaugliness by Maria L. Berg 2023

It’s the last day of the first month of the new year, and I woke up early, tore apart my mirrorworld, and started fresh. Though conceptually I feel like my ideas are coming together, the images aren’t yet what I’ve been hoping for. How about you? How did your month go?

This week I’m exploring my second call to action: “To find the ugliness in beauty and the beauty in ugliness; uglify the beautiful, or beautify the ugly.” Last week I was excited by Hegel’s dialectic thinking. This morning I found another correlation in neuroscience in Eric R. Kandel’s The Age of Insight.

Coming to Synthesis

Nobel prize winning neuroscientist, Kandel, writes, “Beauty does not occupy a different area of the brain than ugliness. Both are part of a continuum representing the values the brain attributes to them, and both are encoded by relative changes in activity in the same areas of the brain. This is consistent with the idea that positive and negative emotions lie on a continuum and call on the same neural circuitry. Thus, the amygdala, commonly associated with fear, is also a regulator of happiness.”

I love how my goal of creating images that show how contradictory abstract nouns converge works with the physiology of the brain.

While thinking about today’s photo-shoot and my call to action, I contemplated if capturing synthesis would actually make great art. Isn’t it the extremes that people find exciting? Not the negation, the accomplished stasis?

Kandel says, “Our response to art stems from an irrepressible urge to re-create in our own brains the creative process—cognitive, emotional, and empathic—through which the artist produced the work. This creative urge of the artist and the beholder presumably explains why essentially every group of human beings in every age and in every place throughout the world has created images, despite the fact that art is not a physical necessity for survival. Art is an inherently pleasurable and instructive attempt by the artist and the beholder to communicate and share with each other the creative process that characterizes every human brain—a process that leads to an Aha! moment, the sudden recognition that we have seen into another person’s mind, and that allows us to see the truth underlying both the beauty and the ugliness depicted by the artist.”

Thus, each of these images I share with you whether beautiful, or ugly, or somewhere along the continuum, is a peek into my mind. Welcome. It’s busy, and often cluttered, but there’s a lot of fun creating going on.

To make today’s images, using only white string-lights, I used printed transparencies of sections of my images that showed the shape both right-side-up and upside-down. I then created new images showing the filter both right-side-up and upside-down. Is it the synthesis? The negation? I’m not sure, but I had fun with my new terminology in my titles.

Beaugliful by Maria L. Berg 2023

Next Steps

I’m going to continue to explore beauty and ugliness for a while. Kant keeps coming up as I study abstract art, so I want to read through his works that I downloaded from Project Gutenberg.

Using my new kindle skills I searched for beauty and ugly in Kant’s Critique of Judgement and beauty had 500 matches, ugly had 4. I find that fascinating. Why the crazy imbalance? Is it because people seek out beauty and not ugliness?

In the section called “Dialectic of the Aesthetical Judgement,” Kant says, “. . . the conflict between judgements of Taste, so far as each man depends merely on his own taste, forms no Dialectic of taste; because no one proposes to make his own judgement a universal rule. There remains therefore no other concept of a Dialectic which has to do with taste than that of a Dialectic of the Critique of taste (not of taste itself) in respect of its principles; for here concepts that contradict one another (as to the ground of the possibility of judgements of taste in general) naturally and unavoidably present themselves.”

As I read it, there is no conflict between beauty and ugliness when it has to do with one’s own ideas and feelings, the conflict arises when people’s aesthetics are different. Something to think about.

Dialectic Thinking and the Study of Contradictory Abstractions

Hegelian Synthesis by Maria L. Berg 2023

Last week, while thinking about the first of my new calls to action “To find the truth in deceit and the deceit in truth; either deceive the truth, or unveil the deceit” (I now think reveal works better than unveil), the idea of deceiving truth, along with the blues songs I’ve been studying, got me thinking about cheaters and love triangles. I started thinking of imagery that represents a union of two wholes which made me think of the yin yang (itself a joining of opposites), and then an invisible triangle, the secret third party: the opposite of truth and the bringer of conflict.

Modernist Dialectic Thought

As I’ve mentioned I’m taking a course I found on coursera.org through Wesleyan University taught by Michael Roth called “The Modern and the Postmodern (Part 1)”. Last week, in the section called “From Enlightenment to Revolution,” we were assigned a bunch of Karl Marx to read, but for me the most interesting part of the week was the lectures on Karl Marx’s teacher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel. Though Wikipedia disagrees with itself whether Hegel actually used the terminology of Hegelian dialectic thought, I’m going to go ahead and talk about what excited me and how it inspired me this week.

Here’s how I understand Hegelian dialectics: every thought or idea (thesis) gives rise to its opposite (antithesis) and through conflict comes to synthesis. The whole process he called negation.

[Wikipedia says “For Hegel, the concrete, the synthesis, the absolute, must always pass through the phase of the negative, in the journey to completion, that is, mediation.” Seems similar enough to me.]

For Hegel this concept of an idea and its opposite coming to synthesis isn’t a fun thought experiment or art project (like me), it is his explanation of how the world works, and how the present reality interacts with history.

How does Hegelian philosophy change anything I’m doing? It brought up the idea that the image I’m searching for is the Synthesis, the end result of Negation. And when I find that, do I get to make up a new term: a word that means both truth and deceit for instance, and what would my process be for finding that term, making up that word, making a new term that means both and neither? That should be fun, and make for good image titles.

Does it really change how I think about my study of contradictory abstract nouns? A little. As I take my photographs, I may be seeing how the world works, actually documenting a more real reality than if I were taking photos of the mountain, lake, birds, and kitty. I’m getting close to photographing truth and reason, or at least seeing a path to documenting images of truth and reason.

How might this affect my process? If I am finding the truth in deceit and the deceit in truth, I come up with a shape or symbol that I think can embody both somehow. I can create it and it’s opposite (not exactly opposite, but the form upside down and backwards) at the same time. I can even make those two shapes or symbols interact, but is that an image of synthesis? Has my image gone through negation? How would I study that?

There is no simple symbol of truth and deceit, however, I was playing with the idea of two joined shapes=the yin yang and the secret triangle for the deceit. So if I take that symbol and its opposite (upside-down and backwards) will it make a synthesis of truth and deceit?

In the pictures I put in this post, I think the one with the shape upside down and backwards (the antithesis) creates the conflict Hegel talks about, and I think the one without the antithesis (top of post) creates a new form through synthesis. What do you think?

Talk About Synthesis:

The craziest thing happened last night. After free-writing about what I wanted to say about dialectic thinking. I went to bed and opened up Abstract Art: A Global History by Pepe Karmel, and right there in the introduction, right after saying “Critics argued that the abstract art made between 1915 and 1970 mattered deeply because its development unfolded according to laws of historical necessity. In contrast, even if individual painters and sculptors chose to go on making abstract art after 1970, their work did not—could not—belong to a meaningful historical narrative.” he says:

“The modernist theory of abstraction, with its reductive narrative explaining both the birth of abstraction and its ineluctable death, derived from Hegel, who tried to uncover an inner logic to history, replacing a chronicle of random events with a coherent narrative of significant actions. . . . modernists thought that, since abstraction had arrived at its essence, there was nothing meaningful left for modern artists to do. Painters might not have hung up their brushes, but ‘post-historical abstract painting’ was condemned to insignificance.”

So is Pepe saying that the process of Negation: thesis-antithesis-synthesis leads to the end of abstract painting? Or that “modernists” thought that? I don’t think that’s a reasonable conclusion. As I see it, the synthesis, that residual after the conflict lives on, or as the circles within circles of history, the process repeats and repeats.

What I’m finding inspirational for creating abstract art, Pepe Karmel sees as the end of abstract art. Though we obviously are in thesis and antithesis with no synthesis in sight, it’s still fun to see the connection.

Negation by Maria L. Berg 2023

Next Steps

I’m going to continue to dive into the philosophy of dialectic thought while I move to my second call to action “To find the ugliness in beauty and the beauty in ugliness; uglify the beautiful, or beautify the ugly.”

Another statement that came up in The Modern and the Postmodern class, “beauty hides the truth” is in stark contrast to Keat’s statement in Ode on a Grecian Urn “Beauty is truth, truth beauty . . .” so there’s a lot to explore there.

The Week in Review: Reading, Writing, and Abstraction

Spotlight by Maria L. Berg 2023

How was your week? Did you try reading like a writer? I really enjoyed applying the things I learned from The Madness of Crowds by Louise Penny to my short story. This week I’ll be talking about The Woman in the Library by Sulari Gentill.

I’m enjoying my coursera.org course “The Modern and the Postmodern” through Wesleyan University. I really like how my study of contradictory abstractions overlaps with philosophy. This week’s section “From Enlightenment to Revolution” talked about Hegel’s dialectic thinking. I’ll talk more about that on Tuesday.

This week’s images were inspired by painters from the Northwest School, that emerged in the late 1930’s, especially the work of Mark Tobey. In Modernism in the Pacific Northwest by Patricia Junker, there’s a photograph of lights on US Navy ships in Elliott Bay during Fleet Week, July 1937, on the opposite page from Tobey’s painting “White Night, 1942. One can see how the overlapping spotlights could be the energy Tobey tries to capture in the painting. I played with creating the overlapping spotlights with light-forming photography and enjoyed the results.

Enlighten by Maria L. Berg 2023

Using drum beats to create poetic lines

This week’s rhythm I’ve been playing with is: one, two, three and, four. It made me think of the cha-cha, but when I looked up some cha-cha videos it turns out the cha-cha is actually next week’s beat: one, two, three, four and.

The first lines that came to mind for one, two, three and, four:

she is always late; she has fifty dates

sweet treat healthy fruit; brown round wrinkled suit

time to go-to bed; Mis-ter sleepy head

time to go-to work; he’s a soda jerk

Here’s some of a draft of a poem idea I wrote the other day:

a triangle from two connected points
the unknown third point
making invisible lines
of connection
to future hurt
to future revelations
the invisible lines
of secrets and lies
one of those fine lines
is the line between love and hate
a triangle of love
betrayed and hidden
where the deceit in truth
is found, where the
haunting blues find soul
where song after song
find life’s conflict
the wandering eye caught
attention grabbed by the new
and in motion
the yearning flesh aching
knowing there’s a good ache
that frees the mind
from form

Let’s see what happens when I try to put it into the rhythm:

the third unknown point
joins in unseen lines
to a future hurt
that your secrets hide

where the haunting blues
find life’s conflict caught
ache in yearning flesh
moves the wand’ring eye

*I really like how the rhythm helped me condense the ideas. I think this is an intriguing opening.

Radiating by Maria L. Berg 2023

And the Real Work Begins

Today’s the big day! I’m putting the first draft of my novel I wrote in November into a PDF and I’m going to read it through on my tablet as if it’s someone else’s e-book. From now on, as I’m reading like a writer, learning and writing rhythms, and studying contradictory abstractions it is all toward my novel revision.

Here’s to an Exciting Adventure!

Expanding the Study of Contradictory Abstractions

In Repose by Maria L. Berg 2023

Not Just Nouns Anymore

While reading The Linchpin Writer by John Matthew Fox, I came across this interesting sentence:

“You should use your descriptions to do one of two things: to either defamiliarize the familiar, or to familiarize the unfamiliar. “

The form of that sentence, with its contradictions, reminded me of “find the despair in hope, and the hope in despair,” and got me wondering if perhaps I had found the next path in my abstractions study. 

Just plugging in my abstract nouns, however, did not inspire: Description should do one of two things: to either despair the hope, or to hope the despair. Nope. That doesn’t say much to me. Upon closer look, the new formula isn’t directly using abstract nouns. Yes, it’s talking about contradictory abstractions, but with verbs and adjectives. I thought, for today, it would be fun to play around with the idea of turning my Big Five contradictory abstract nouns into verbs and adjectives and fit them into my new formula to see how that might affect how I think of them visually, and poetically.

Truth / Deceit

What are my adjectives for truth and deceit? Honest, and deceitful are my adjectives, or truthful, and deceitful, or true and untrue.  To deceive is a verb but to truth? Maybe reveal as the verb, or profess, it’s hard to think of a verb for truth. I played around with the thesaurus and found verbs that have to do with truth tend to uncover lies like: confess, reveal, unveil, etc. For this exercise, I like unveil. Let’s see what we’ve got now.

Description should do one of two things: to either deceive the truth, or to unveil the deceit.  I think I like that. 

Beauty / Ugliness

The adjectives are pretty easy: beautiful and ugly, The verbs? Beautify, and what? Uglify? I don’t think so. Oh, but I’m wrong: uglify is a word. That was easy. What do we get?

Description should do one of two things: either uglify the beautiful, or beautify the ugly. 

I like that too. I think that works for more than description, but for story as well. It also describes art, don’t you think? Or maybe for art it’s the and, not or. Art should do both: uglify the beautiful, and beautify the ugly.

Happiness / Misery

The adjectives: happy and miserable. The verbs? A bit more challenging. After playing in the thesaurus I landed on “delight” and “dismay.”

Description should do one of two things:  either dismay the happy, or delight the miserable. 

I think that really gets at an interesting concept, I wonder about sometimes. Why do people go to sad movies. When I’m happy, I don’t want to be dismayed, especially by my entertainment. Why do people like Shakespeare, or the opera, dramas of any sort. I think it’s to evoke emotion, strong emotion is a catharsis for people when they feeling flat, in a rut, unemotional. They need to feel these emotions to feel alive.

Love / Apathy

The adjectives: lovely, apathetic? Lovely is more like beauty, no. I think love calls for a different adjective, but what? Passionate, compassionate? Love is definitely the verb, but what about for apathy? That’s a little tricky. I think to bore is the closest I found.

Description should do one of two things: to either bore the passionate, or to love the apathetic. 

I like the first part a lot. Why would something have the purpose of boring the passionate?  The second part isn’t as intriguing. Maybe to love the uncaring . . .

But to love the apathetic sounds like defeat without any reason, but maybe that’s facing a truth.

Wisdom / Naivete

The adjectives are wise and naive. What the verbs? To know, to learn, to contemplate, to weigh, to judge. And naive? To fool, to forget, to blank, to clear, 

Description should do one of two things: either clear the wise, or know the naive. 

Description should do one of two things: either fool the wise, or judge the foolish. 

Description should do one of two things: either fool the wise, or wisen the foolish. 

I think that last one works.

Good / Bad

This week, inspired by the song “I Got It Bad (And That Ain’t Good),” I’m looking at the bad in the good, and the good in the bad. How would this new idea expand on that? The adjectives? To get from good to better, one must improve. And from bad to worse, one worsens. So we’ve got: Description should do one of two things: either worsen the good, or improve the bad.That’s a strange statement. Is that what my photographs should do? Is that what today’s poem should do? Lots to think about.

That was a fun exercise. However, I try to avoid “should” so I think I’ll change the phrase to only the ending and make it declarative: Worsen the good, or improve the bad. If I combine that with my original contradictory noun phrase I get: Find the good in the bad, and the bad in the good, then worsen the good, or improve the bad. Or it could be: To find the good in the bad, and the bad in the good, worsen the good, or improve the bad.

Though it sounds like nonsensical gobbledygook, but after some thought, it makes sense. It’s got me thinking, so I like it.

Slowly Rolling by Maria L. Berg 2023

Next Steps

Lets see what the combined sentences would look like for my Big Five:

  1. To find the truth in deceit and the deceit in truth; either deceive the truth, or unveil the deceit.
  2. To find the ugliness in beauty and the beauty in ugliness; uglify the beautiful, or beautify the ugly.
  3. To find the happiness in misery and the misery in happiness; dismay the happy, or delight the miserable.
  4. To find the love in apathy and the apathy in love; bore the passionate, or love the uncaring.
  5. To find the naivete in wisdom and the wisdom in naivete; fool the wise, or wisen the foolish.

Looks like I’ve created my call to action for the next five weeks.

The Warm-up Week: Creating New Systems

Warm and Fuzzy by Maria L. Berg 2023

How was your first week of the year? Mine was busy and fun. I love how writing down what I want to do, here at Experience Writing, motivates me to do it. With all of the new things I’m trying, I have to remind myself that I’m just getting started. I need to be patient and give things time.

I did read a novel this week. I finished The Manual of Detection by Jedediah Berry. Tomorrow I’ll have a post about how I plan to start reading as a writer and applying what I learn from reading novels. Then later in the week I’ll have a post about what I learned from The Manual of Detection and how I can apply that to my work.

I was inspired to look at my contradictory abstractions study in a new way and will share that on Tuesday.

This week’s images were inspired by early abstract painters, Kandinsky and Mondrian. I used different size sharpies to color and draw on clear plastic then cut shapes out of black paper to represent large brush strokes, or paint blobs. I like the effect. I’m still trying to figure out the arrangement of my mirror room, but I think I’m getting results.

After realizing last week that my motivational issues are due to fear, I decided to face that fear by facing myself. I set up a chair and fabric drape in my office and have started taking self-portraits every day just as I am, no make-up, messy hair. So far it’s great practice. I’m hoping after a while, I’ll loosen up and get past trying to pose for the camera. Over time I’ll play with different looks: wigs, make-up, costumes, etc. It’ll be fun (I hope).

I finished up my chapbook for the Writer’s Digest NovPAD Challenge and sent it in, I entered a Sony Photography contest, and sent images to two literary magazines. I like that I’ve started the year submitting my work. I want to keep that up consistently this year.

I got a fun e-mail from the editor of Heron Tree. They are looking for submissions of found poetry, and one of the text options this year is Culpeper’s Complete Herbal. I am so grateful she emailed me and turned me onto this fabulous text from 1826 with color plates of drawings of the different herbs, and text of how Mr. Nicholas Culpeper used them in his work. I’m going to start by putting sections of the text through the Mesostic Poem Generator and see what comes out.

I started a new (to me) Coursera.org Course, “The Modern and Postmodern (Part 1)” through Wesleyan University. One of the texts led me to Project Gutenberg and now my Kindle is full of philosophy and aesthetics books from the early 1900s. I will never run out of things to read.

I also started my first SloPo mini-course with ModPo Penn. We’re studying Joan Retallack‘s poems.

I Got It Bad and I Think That’s Good by Maria L. Berg 2023

Using drum beats to create poetic lines

This week I started something I’ve been wanting to do for a while. I’m working on my drumming and applying it to writing poetry. To do this I found some videos from Music College TV on Youtube. This is the video I’m starting with:

I practiced playing four beats of quarter notes, then four beats of eighth notes in different combinations of cymbals and drums. Then I thought about how to represent that with words as a line of poetry. Thinking only of the rhythm, I came up with:

cat cat cat cat, kitty kitty kitty kitty

fox fox fox fox, vixen vixen vixen vixen

Easy right? And fun to say, but not exactly poetry. So then I took a section of a poem I wrote this week while thinking about finding the bad in good and the good in bad, and attempted to keep the meaning of the line while changing it to my new rhythm.

Here are the original lines:

I tell everyone I meet that I’m a good person,
but I’m not.
I talk about honesty and truth,
but I’m lying
I recite poems that equate truth to beauty,
but I think they’re ugly
I expound on the value of flaws and natural beauty,
but seek perfection

And here are the new lines in my simple drumbeat:

I say I’m good when we meet, but you’re not buying
I talk of truth, honestly, I know I’m lying
If truth is fine, why do I find yours is ugly?
If flaws make rich, why do I wish to be smudge free?

The new lines in rhythm felt like they needed to rhyme which I think is interesting. It’s challenging, but it definitely makes me write and think in a new way.

No Rush

I’m happy that I’m making progress, so I’m not going to rush things. I’ll stick with finding the good in the bad and the bad in the good while continuing to work on the song “I Got It Bad and That Ain’t Good” and playing around with my simple drum beat. I may stick with this song and beat for one more week or two or through the end of the month, as long as I am continuing the work and feeling inspired.

I do plan to stick to a novel a week though. This week I’m reading The Madness of Crowds by Louise Penny.

How are you diving into the New Year? I look forward to hearing about it in the comments.

Quickly Capturing Lingering Light

Lingering in Quickness by Maria L. Berg 2022

It’s amazing how energizing one cool, cloudy day was. Today, was back to hot and sweaty, but it didn’t feel as oppressive. I finally set up my new mobile mirrorworld to my satisfaction, and played with an interesting purple and green light palette.

And They Dance by Maria L. Berg 2022

I find it amusing that these random globs of dried hot glue in different shapes look like people dancing to me.

Today was the first time I tried using the net-lights with the reflection balls in the fabric-covered pool noodles. I like how nature adds to the abstractions. I’m seeing lots of potential.

Bursting by Maria L. Berg 2022

New Poem

The poetry form prompt at dVerse Poets Pub is to write an Octelle. The focus of the form is to use personification and symbolism, so that sounded fun.

Quickly Capturing Lingering Light

When light escapes and comes to play
I know I’ll have a busy day
Free of night and free of fears
as glaring white she appears
but in our game I calm her
and coax each color forward
when light escapes and comes to play
I know I’ll have a busy day

The Values of Literature

A bokeh shape image of feathers in house shapes.
Gathered Feathers by Maria L. Berg 2022

Last week I stumbled upon Italo Calvino’s Six Memos for the Next Millennium which are a series of planned lectures about literary values he was working on when he died. He died before he finished writing the sixth. His six values of literature are: Lightness, Quickness, Exactitude, Visibility, Multiplicity, and Consistency.

In each of his lectures he discusses his ideas of the stated value and its opposite which inspired me to use these values as my contradictory abstractions for August and into September.

First, I considered the word value, and its many meanings. When I looked at value at the beginning of this study of abstract nouns in April, I was thinking about value in terms of exchange. Calvino appears to be using the seventh definition for value in my Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary which is “something (as a principal or quality) intrinsically valuable or desirable.

Three pool noodles covered in patterned spandex and tied together in a triangle, creating a cage for six reflection balls floating on a lake.
My Floating Summer Studio by Maria L. Berg 2022

Artistically, what I was desiring was a changeable color palette for my floating photography studio. So I chose some garish spandex I had collected from bargain tables over the years, and sewed colorful skins for my pool noodles. The results were surprisingly subtle, yet interesting.

Colorful Cogs by Maria L. Berg 2022

Calvino’s first value, “Lightness,” he sees as the opposite of “Weight” as in the weight of the world, or gravity of thought. When he discusses lightness as a quality of literature, he describes it as “the sudden agile leap of the poet-philosopher.”

Calvino says that lightness in writing is precision and determination, not vagueness and the haphazard. Then he quotes Paul Valery who said: “Il faut etre leger comme l’oiseau, et non comme la plume” (One should be light like a bird, and not like a feather).

This idea really appealed to me. Where I live, I am constantly surrounded by birds, from tiny hummingbirds and dark-eyed juncos to great blue herons, osprey and bald eagles. The mystery and grace, flight’s sheer defiance of gravity is exciting to watch.

I had already collected some small feathers the neighbor’s cats so kindly left on my porch. so I tried using them as filters.

Feathers on the Mat by Maria L. Berg 2022
A Bird in the Dry Grass by Maria L. Berg 2022

This week I am looking at Calvino’s second value Quickness which he sees as the opposite of Lingering and Digression. Yesterday, to begin my study, I tried a technique I found in Abstract Explorations in Acrylic Painting by Jo Toye. Jo used hot glue to create stencils to create resist patterns in her paintings. Now that I am look at my filters as both positive and negative space, I saw the potential for this technique with my photography. Here’s my first attempt:

Sudden Agile Leaping by Maria L. Berg 2022

What’s fun is it’s similar to something I tried a long time ago with wire:

Wire Lines by Maria L. Berg 2019

Guess it wasn’t that long ago, but it sure seems like a very long time ago. I think the changes in the thickness of line from the glue are much more dynamic.

The reason I chose to try the glue technique this week is because once the glue gun is hot and I’ve cut the basic filter shapes, I can create many different designs with quickness, then linger in all their image possibilities.

New Poem

Today’s Poetics prompt from Merril at dVerse Poets Pub is to write a poem about a restaurant. The example poem by Margaret Atwood “They eat out,” was an odd surprise, opening the prompt to all sorts of possibilities.

Restaurants bring up so many memories fraught with conflicting emotions. I think Lightness and Weight, and Quickness and Lingering can all find their way into a restaurant.

Gathered at Another Steak House

Restless in this restaurant, her eyes rest
on the fake, flickering candles and cloth
carnations, on the bleached tablecloth and
folded cloth napkin swans swimming
in place on gold waves rippling
at the edges of shiny plates waiting
for waiters to replace them with
appetizers, strengthening hunger’s desire.

Tense utensils clang in past and future tense
Tumblers topple, ice tumbling, sliding across
tabletops, and topics are quickly tabled as
secrets spilled splatter saucy and juicy
stains that will never completely come out
and after desserts are devoured
no one lingers to feel sated.