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Monday, 31 May 2010

Weekly Wisdom from Mr. Trollope

I doubt whether any girl would be satisfied with her lover's mind if she knew the whole of it.

Present Outlines, Effect Proposed

      So said a series of turn of the century "before and afters," photos of the land that was to be Central Park, and drawings of what that would look like, currently on display at The Morgan Library.  They were part of an exhibit called Romantic Gardens, about the effect of romanticism on landscape design.  The romantic ethos moved away from the monarchical symmetry of gardens forced into submission by man and toward a natural liberalism that highlighted nature's inherent beauty.   I had visited the library this time as a guest of my Grandfather to see Magna Carta, the little document temporarily and unexpectedly estranged from home.  I saw the paper, was surprised by how tiny such an important thing could be, and then quickly ran away from Herbert, who was, as usual, attracting lots of attention.  I wandered past Mr. Morgan's study and walked by the cafe.  To my left was a little room housing an exhibit called Defining Beauty.  Naturally, I opened the door and walked in.  Albrecht Durer's drawings lined the walls, and a book lay open displaying human figures, their bodies marked and measured in minute detail.  This book, On Human Proportion, is Durer's study of the human form--more importantly, human forms.  The exhibit quotes him as saying that in his quest for beauty in art, he took an arm from one body, a breast from another, toes from yet another--that beauty could not be found singularly, it required variation, and I suppose, collaboration.  It's a lovely idea this artist had--no muse, just musing on everything he saw, finding beauty in everyone and everything and, using art, bringing them together to reflect humanity.  I kept these thoughts in my mind as I walked by the drawings, studying the forms, and noticing the prejudices in myself toward the bodies I observed, my instinct to adapt to what is culturally popular in terms of body aesthetics.  Durer's vision is so wholesome, so inclusive.  His vision encompasses the reasons why we find a child's scribblings wonderful, choose a home cooked meal over haute cuisine, desire the person we love over an image in a magazine--not perfectly formed, but perfectly intended.  Durer wrote this as an accompaniment to a work of art:
  "Please let it be as it is. No one could improve it because it was done artistically and with care. Those who see it and who understand such matters will tell you so." 
     He accepts the ambiguity of individuality, strives for precision and care within that acceptance, and finds harmony.  He should have written a book for teenage girls.  I thought about the time I've been spending with a personal trainer, time initially set aside to propose an effect on the present outlines, but time that has instead, become about lifting fifteen more pounds than I could three weeks earlier, impressing myself with my own strength--things of my body but not really about it: defining beauty in individuality, power, flaw, artistry; cultivating gardens not to diminish what's already growing, but to nurture their fullest potential.