This is another picture from my walk through the Hahn Horticulture gardens a couple of weeks ago. I’ve walked by this statue several times in the garden but never really gotten a good picture of it until this one. The plaque in the bottom right corner reads:
“Maid in the Mud” Garden Sprite
by Frank Lloyd Wright
Gift of Warren and Margie Kark
June 16, 2007.
I won’t pretend to know a lot about art, my only real academic experiences with it being an art history course last fall and some on site information from the Beckers this summer. But to me at least, it is a very haunting piece, brimming with both longing and regret, as if she has just lost something very dear to her. The nature of the sculpture also adds to the effect. There are no smooth curves at all in this sculpture, only sharp, angular cuts, creating a figure of purely flat surfaces. I think it serves to immediately put a distance between the sculpture and the humans viewing it. In human-like sculptures we look for things we can identify with, things that remind us of ourselves, in a way things that affirm our own humanity. By having a sculpture, especially a female one, be made of hard geometric shapes like this rather than the soft, gentle curves we tend to associate with women it is much harder for the viewer to make a connection with the subject. Rather than a benevolent, welcoming figure, we (or me at least) unthinkingly assign to it a negative emotion such as loss or regret rather than a more positive one such as sympathy that we might bestow on a figure that we could relate to on a “human” level. But she is the only one in the scene, we really have no way of knowing what she’s gazing down at, if anything at all. Is she mourning the loss of a loved one? Is she a worried mother standing over an injured child, full of worry and love? Is the subject of her concern something physical and concrete at all?
We watched another very interesting video for our TED talk colloquium tonight. The talk (http://www.ted.com/talks/carl_honore_praises_slowness.html), given by journalist Carl Honore, advocated a “slowing down” of our arguably fast-paced society. It struck a particularly strong cord with me as I watched it, as it had been something I’ve given a fairly good amount of thought to before, and kinda written about here before. The basic gist of the argument is that the best way to get more out of the time we have is not to try to pack as many things into it as possible, but rather to try to get more out of the things we do. More what? A simple question, but one without an equally simple answer. More enjoyment, more fulfillment, more meaning, just more. I see this as deeper than just an “enjoy the simple things in life” message.
Another point he seems to make in the video is that eventually our fast-paced lives catch up to us, we reach a breaking point, and once we reach this point, we either make an effort to slow down or risk truly burning ourselves out. Our lives are full of stress, regardless of whether we are in school or out in the workforce, but we all try to find the best way to deal with it. However, it never seems to really go away, and over time it builds up inside us until it can manifest in some physical way, be it a sickness that forces us to take it easy for a while, or an emotional outburst, whose consequences can, and should, lead to a reflection about their true cause. This can be that crucial breaking point. If we ignore what our bodies and minds are trying to tell us, drown them out with neverending work and worry, the consequences can be catastrophic.
I think I reached one of these breaking points last spring. Overwhelmed with work and a couple of personal issues, and without a real way to remove myself from the stressful situation, it felt like things were falling down all around me. There was a week where all of my deadlines and responsibilities seemed to converge. I made it through the week, but paid for it that weekend. I remember not being able to do much on account of some particularly bad headaches. But while this weekend was certainly not productive on an academic level, it made me slow down, really stop and think about things. I know I’ve talked about this here before, but I realized that my priorities were not in the right order, and had been skewed for quite some time. Getting a B in a class wasn’t going to kill me, it wasn’t the end of the world, and I really needed to cut myself some slack personally and academically. I took a pretty deep look at what my motivation was for all of the things I was doing, realizing that a good deal of them were pretty superficial, doing the activity for the sake of doing the activity, and not really getting anything out of it. I had to look for my “focal activities,” which I talked about a couple of posts ago.
Since then, I have tried, and it is very hard at times, to slow myself down. Breaking out of a mindset in which I’ve been fairly firmly set for the past five or six years has taken, and is still taking a good deal of effort on my part. It’s not something we can simply switch on or off, but requires a change on a much deeper, more fundamental level. But it’s a goal that I feel is worthy of the effort it requires.
Anyway, I have a tendency to ramble when I’m up too late past my bedtime, so I think that will have to do for tonight.