Beach Rose II
© 2005, David J. Bookbinder

Comments

Lisa S. said…
David,
When I ordered prints of a couple of your flower images, you asked about words they brought to mind. I never replied because I was truly nonplussed - if my response to them is anything, it's wordless. And the idea of them as mandalas was puzzling to me, an unrelenting rationalist, as well. But I will try to express my thought - or perhaps not thought, but also not so much emotion; really, feeling - a constitutive response that feels integral to mind and body.

It's a response I have always had when encountering symmetry, simple or complex, in art and nature. Detecting before me beauty in order, I simply cannot pass by blithely - invariably I must stop and contemplate the object or scene, and I am always not only fascinated but enticed; that is, it's not just appreciation, it's desire.

An image like this one is profoundly enchanting, because it displays elements beyond a simple symmetry, beyond a pleasing, balanced repetition. There is in the forms a complexity that alternatively is felt both to be contained and created by simpler forms and also to give rise to them; a depth where forms compact themselves beyond our perception; and a suggestion of instability fleetingly harnessed, a moment - not in time but in order - frozen out of infinite possibility. And all those other potentialities roil imperceptibly on the edge of consciousness, where if sensed they reveal to the mind its capacity to infer unnumbered variations from a humble selection of experiences. Perhaps it is the solidifying of a glimpse at this faculty of our own minds that captivates us; we are offered through the image a tantalizing opportunity to experience a potential that we only sense.

But not to lose sight of the flower: in the most appealing images, the natural form of the flower is a serene host; infinite, timeless geometries within tender and ephemeral petals present no conflict or contradiction. A sense of possibility, of possibleness, inheres in the created figure. And where the image intensifies nature's power to give order to form and form to order, it intensifies as well our appreciation of that power realized in nature, in the flowers of our actual experience.

My experience of the images sounds perhaps intellectual, but though I exercise my intellect trying to describe it, I don't believe it's truly an intellectual response at all. Nor do they overtly provoke emotions in me that might be called "relational" or personal, such as love, compassion, hope, or contentment (in fact, I believe the foregoing are relatively intellectualized emotions - socialized, "nice" emotions). What is engaged is more primal. We don't name it for its effect but for its drive: desire, longing, yearning, appetite. We may wonder - engage our intellects to consider - why it is that beauty in form provokes such depth of feeling (the question might be asked of musical forms as much as of visual ones); however, like most I have far less interest in the explanation than in the enjoyment.

Perhaps it is like responding to music more than anything else.

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