appearances

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I've been having an ongoing, rambling internal discussion about how things look, how looks are interpreted, and what different looks, different qualities, mean to different sorts of people under different circumstances. I keep getting input from odd sources- just now an NPR piece on our horrid economy, the thriving art market and the highest price ever paid for a Monet just being paid at Christie's. Yesterday I had a chat about tastes in photography, and what people raised with the power and immediacy of cell phone images will look for in a "good photograph." Over the paste several weeks there's been discussion about how web pages look, how the walls look, how our furniture looks, and what it all means- what it says about us.

By internal, let me qualify- I mean internal to my own head. Internal to me, not to us; when you walk to and from work every day with no electronics, you have lots of internal discussions. I believe some folks call that "crazy"…

Any how, this is all very complex and rather jumbled. Did the person who paid $80.4 million for the Monet really really like the way the Monet looked? Maybe. Was it only an investment? Perhaps. Were the buyers excited about what the painting said about them? That too is possible. What do you think Monet was saying when he made the visual statement? What did the painting say about him? If you had purchased the same painting from the artist in 1925, what would it have said to you or about you at that time?

Obviously changes take place in perceptions. There was a time when hanging a Monet in your office would have said you were avant guard to some, tasteless to others. Taking a photo and getting the person to sit still long enough for a clear exposure would have branded you as a professional level photographer. Now, "professional photographer" implies over equipped and far from cutting edge. Good photos communicate, and do so immediately and honestly to a world wide audience. Who cares if the sitter is in focus?

Geez, where am I going with this? It's all banging together, all connected.

Growing up in a lower middle class blue collar home, my home was comfortable and no where near decorated. My father cleaned oil burners for a local Mobil branch, but evenings and weekends he cooked, he was a scout master, he was a game warden, and he was a commercial artist. We didn't have "lamps" we had electrical things that let us light up what we were working on. We didn't have a living room set, we had places to put the cool stuff we found, were reading, were experimenting on, so that it was convenient for everybody and we could all see it and talk about it. Some folks would say our house was a mess. Some would say it was a pretty exciting place.

Depending on what your house looked like, you might think my family was poor, or crazy, or creative and inquisitive.

Depending on what you were used to. Depending on the language you spoke.

So back to Monet. What did his studio look like? Anything at all like the living room or office of the person who just paid 80 million for a picture? I doubt it. Among the many things that held Monet's interest- good food, gardening, and light- I don't think he would have been at all concerned about how his studio looked or what it said about him. And I guess if I had a chance to have coffee with Monet or the folks who just paid $80 million, I'd hang out with Claude.

Penn State
April 18, Symposium 2009; reimagine.
New content. Symposium 2008.Digital Commons at Penn State. Improve the workplace; hire for variety.

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