Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The Prairie Enso

For me winter is never very far away.  On a wall across the room from where I write is an art photograph by Dave Leiker titled “Fence wire in winter.”

I saw this image at a local Toad Hollow Art Show several years ago.  I recall visiting with Dave about it but I don’t recall the actual content of that conversation.  I do know I was fascinated by it and it rolled around in my mind from time too time.  Then I would meet it again at another show and I’d think about it some more.  It seemed curiously worth thinking about off and on.  

After I stopped doing art shows I realized I would have fewer opportunities to see this favorite image, so I bought it.  I love to study art works, but, only occasionally do I buy something even if I really like it.   Largely, because I have run out of space to give each piece it’s due.

I can take a shot at trying to explain why I think it has resonated so strongly with me but, I’d suggest not taking it too seriously because I really don’t understand it well myself.  Is it the simplicity or the complexity?  Of course at some level it’s always about line.  Is there subtle symbolism here?  If so, what?

I think I first seized the image from a zen-like, wordless, unparsed  perspective.  But later I began to dissect it from different directions using the contrasting pairs of concepts so dear to our western, rational mind set.

One of the curious loops in my rational mode selected the wire out as a version of enso, a zen concept and I started calling the image “The Prairie Enso” in my mind.

After it was on my wall I could study it as often as I wanted and I began making a few notes because I thought I might someday write something about it - some winter day.

Sometimes I would just sort of unleash my mind and let it run wild across that landscape.  Finding pattern, even where there isn’t any or it is stochastic, is a human thing.  Does that horizontal line of vegetation work with the post and wire to make a Celtic cross?  That could be fitting as ranchers seem to feel their stewardship relation with the land and their herd is practically a sacred thing.

Do the intersecting lines of vegetation resemble a lazy Z - like a rancher’s brand. Or does it remind me of the mark of Zorro from my childhood.  Or, is it a Z for zen pointing to the enso.

Is there a play here between the natural and the artificial?  Could that coil be a stockman's Christmas wreath?  The leaning vegetation implies the wind.  Would the image be as interesting if is taken from another perspective?  How about the coil of wire?   How much unruliness is just right?  And the post - It has a thumb which allows the wire to hang securely.  What’s the back story of how the wire got its post or the post got its wire?  And why does the loose roll of wire, curiously seem to defy gravity and hangs wider than tall - stretched laterally by what?  Perhaps it is the ineffable force of the pull of the expanse of the prairie.

Finally, there is the issue of the frame and matting.  If they are well done, they are like a great assistant - one you don’t notice much while they are making you look good.

Unfortunately, the image I’m posting certainly doesn’t do justice to the real thing.  I’ll point you to some of Dave’s work with much better quality images.

After I wrote all that I began to feel a bit like Marco in “And to Think That I Saw it on Mulberry Street” by Dr. Seuss.  Imagination is a wonderful thing.

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