A Day with MC Escher: A Lingering Love and Linear Logic

 

MCE -DrawingHands

“Drawing Hands” — MC Escher 1948

Last month I took my son and his young friend to see the MC Escher exhibit at the NC Museum of Art in Raleigh as part of our homeschool experience. First thing I noticed: THE ENTIRE PARKING LOT WAS PACKED! Hundred of parking spaces and not a single empty space. Wait, what? I’m at an art museum and having to drive around and around just to find a space? THIS IS AWESOME!!

We finally parked and purchased our tickets. I soon learned this was the largest exhibit ever in the world on display of MC Escher’s work in one place. It was certainly the biggest traveling museum exhibit I have ever attended. We spent hours looking, but I could’ve spent days. Easily.

In my photography club I’ve been learning about the Elements of Design (line, texture, shape, form, pattern, color). With Escher, he effortlessly expands on those elements and adds things like:

  • logic
  • precision
  • pattern
  • reflection
  • perpetual motion, still life, and sometimes a blending of the two

Perhaps what attracts so many people to his work is his unique gift of mathematically capturing concepts such as:

  • the finite and the infinite
  • the abstract and the obvious
  • symmetry
  • the proof of geometry

These are all awesome. But my favorite? Gravity Tricks!

Escher doesn’t create illusion, so much as bend converging realities. I keep studying how MCE defies gravity in his work. I study Drawing Hands where 3D and 2D overlap Hand or Circle Limit IV where the infinite is captured precisely by proportionately repeating patterns that grow ever smaller around the perimeter of a circle. MCE shows us in in Metamorphosis I how objects morph from collective to individual with no discernable delineation. Time seems fold in upon itself as large becomes small, then large, then small again. How do you even think like this, much less accurately draw it?

I look around. A beautiful deaf gentleman and his sweetheart are beside me. He is smiling, and tearing up and overcome with emotion. Their hands are fluttering in a beautiful synchronicity that speaks of a wisdom and secret language open in plain sight I don’t possess and am not privy to, though I wish I was. They never stop talking. In this beautiful space called silence, they are the loudest people I’ve ever seen! I mean, they just won’t shut up. They can’t. They have delved deeper into this than I even I get to go. It makes me want to cry.

My kids with me have finished up before I have. That’s okay. They are immersed in thoughts on a bench and are silently sketching their own thoughts–their own dreams and realities. Art is such a beautiful thing.   I keep perusing.

Seeing photos of Escher as a young man, a young husband, as well as his self-portraits in spheres and mirrors really moved me.  In this one, he kind of resembles Picasso I think. In this one, he kind of reminds me of Coldplay’s Chris Martin. No wait, I think I see some of me in there. Yeah, that’s me–if I were a man I think.

I look at his self-portrait in Hand with Reflecting Sphere which reflects both himself and the room he’s sitting in. But upon closer inspection, it reveals both reality and non-reality.

MCE Hand_with_Reflecting_Sphere

Hand with Reflecting Sphere” — MC Escher 1935

Those hands!! I look at mine. My goodness! Those are my hands! He has the same creases on the same life line. How is that possible?

 I look at the dates of his work.  I try to recall the history of that time. This one is dated 1924. I envision flappers dancing the night away and families gathered around their radio to hear President Coolidge speak.

Oceans away in Rome, Italy, a young Escher meets the love of his life, Jetta Umiker. While America was mass producing Model T’s, Escher was quietly drawing the beautiful towns and landscapes of Viterbo, Abruzi, Corsica, Calabria, Amalfi, and Sicili.  MCE loved Italy, but then Mussolini came to power. Escher found his fascist ideals deplorable, so he moved his family to Switzerland, and then Belgium and then ultimately settled in the Netherlands until 1941 when WWII broke out. He remained there until his death in 1970.

When he sketched, what was his work environment like? Did he hear music in his head? Did he sip some Italian vino as he drew? How does one so perfectly capture the essence of an ant or a beetle? How do you freeze in your mind the stillness of something so small as if the tiny creature had posed for a portrait? How many hours and days and weeks did he spend when he so meticulously captured the landscapes of Italy?

What must it be like to silently appreciate every detail in the vastness of a city by the sea like Atrani, Coast of Amalfi or smaller landscapes like Street in Scano to the intimate portraits of his father George. Even as his father lay dying, Escher’s portrait seems to capture every hair on his head, a visual reminder for himself and others to not forget the beauty of his father’s soul.

When he created, what did he hear? Did he tune out the world’s outer clatter and create in silence or did he immerse himself in the rhythms and melodies found in nature and find hidden symphonies that inspired him?

It’s obvious what inspired him: everything. Escher was not content to draw with flatness, but with depth and dimension. He tapped into his unique gift and learned how to draw in a way that expands and changes the way we look at things.

Escher draws us in to his work with optical tricks but quickly leads us to deeper truths. The longer you stare at his work, the more your mind continuously expands. You can’t help but be blown away when you contemplate the infinite when going around and around an endless staircase or the use of hyperbolic geometry and symmetry as you move from a large central image to an exponentially smaller one in a repeating pattern.   You can feel the deeper truth at work in your own heart the longer you look.

Perhaps it’s the tug of our own inner law of entropy at work: The uneasy awareness that settles in knowing over time, we all become small, then smaller–then gone.

When math marries imagination and memory, well–it’s a beautiful thing. As a person who is often rooted too much emotion and feeling, I feel myself breathe in utter relaxation and find a sense of calm as the linear logic of math and predictable patterns make sense.   Until it doesn’t again. Poof! Mind blown—again!

Like excellent music, I don’t think I could pinpoint a favorite MCE work; there are too many I love! But one that really touched my heart was Three Worlds. MCE explained his goal in this work was to incorporate and connect multiple realities.

MCE-Three-Worlds-I

“Three Worlds” — MC Escher — December 1955

That struck a nerve. Because this is the world where Liz resides! It’s called:

Nothing is Coincidence

and

Everything is Connected

 As someone who enjoys creating, I am most inspired by the way Escher refused to live a life of frustration constipation. (Living life doing the things that don’t interest you or motivate you). He didn’t hold back his art, or deny time for it, he let it out!

Escher seems to understand that when we create art, we leave behind something that resonates in the soul of someone else. One’s work easily transcends the length of one’s life when it has the power to connect with others. Something created can make someone else smile, or cry, or think about people or the world differently. The silence of art brings us both revelation and understanding of both the artist and ourselves.

MC Escher was known for restoring order out of chaos, be it one’s external world, or one’s internal mind. He also was a gifted genius employing techniques of beautiful precision. He found a way to visually articulate the ways that art can be composed of both math and science. Science and logic can beautifully coexist with nature and creation. As a creator, his work to me implies an understanding that he too was created. Perhaps in that vast space that lies between love and logic, vision and creation, he too found proof of God.

Official Site of MC Escher to purchase his work can be found here:  http://www.mcescher.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Princess of Grace

karolina kotkiewicz

PHOTO CREDIT:  KAROLINA KOTKIEWICZ

So maybe I wasn’t born into the Royal Family and beseeched with adoring Brits and Royal watchers the world over tracking my every hiccup, pimple, gaff, dress of the day, pound gained or lost, and event attended by infinite mobs of paparazzi with camera lenses the length of yardsticks.  I’ve never had women faint or men swoon and lay down their coat for my dry clean feet to tread, simply because of my existence.

I’ve never been deserving of security detail, a personal hairdresser, chef, or secretary to manage my job of social engagements and charitable work, though I would love to have the latter three just for kicks!

When I was pregnant with each of my own brood of three children, the world didn’t stop spinning if I woke up hugging the royal porcelain throne.  I certainly wasn’t given a diagnosis with as many syllables as Princess Kate has been given.  No, I was simply told, “It’s normal; now go eat a cracker.”

Yes, it’s not always easy being a mere serf to servitude and simplicity, complex array of daily chaos.   It’s challenging indeed.  There are no minions to blame.  There is no staff to assist.   There is only my individual blood, sweat, tears, and frequent sleeplessness that accompanies the challenge of trying to do it all: work a day job, raise kids, assist parents, volunteer at church and school, clean house, laundry, attend and reply to endless paperwork, pay bills, feed pets, chauffer children to school and activities, help with homework, find time to play, oh and breathe!

The real challenge is trying to find the essential time known as “Liz Time.”  Yes, these are the precious hours necessary to rejuvenate my own soul: writing, photography, my beloved bible study group, or trying to catch up with good friends.

Living life outside the palace is messy.  We sorely lack a protocol of propriety.  It’s not always structured and it’s rarely consistent.  Yes, high drama occasionally exists outside the drawbridge but doesn’t make the press (thankfully)!  There is no portcullis at our home’s entrance to shield us from the dangers of the outside world.  We have no moat to slow down the uninvited guest or Royal Guard to interrogate and arrest the annoying solicitors who all come at inopportune times.  Ready or not, our house is always open.

But before you grab a monogrammed hanky and cry for me Argentina, hold your horses.  I am grateful for my commoner status.  Above all, I am grateful that I don’t live inside a fishbowl where perfection is the water one must constantly swim in.  For I know this much is true:  I would drown.  Quickly.

See I have evolved over the years.  I have reframed my thinking.  I am not a slave to my family or even to forces outside my control.  I am indeed a princess of three things:

     A Princess of Procrastination:   Ask any accomplished, or worse, struggling (aka “wannabe”) artist, writer, painter, visionary (okay…I’ll stop there) and they will tell you this:  You sometimes must procrastinate regarding your duties of life in order to nurture your high calling, even if at this moment it is perceived only by you.   For who knows the plans God has for you?   Perhaps, you were born for such a time as time as this.  Translation: To respond to intuition and to occasionally shirk what others perceive as duty.  Wisdom whispers quietly sometimes.

     A Princess of Prognostication:  Yes, because the winds of perpetual change often blow in and out of our home, it sometimes feels as if our so-called fortunes can only be predetermined by the accuracy of my prognostications.  That is to say, if I freak out better and more efficiently, you will get off your butt and see the urgency this particular situation requires and quickly get on board!  Indeed! A prophet in her own household is rarely met with honor.  So be it.   My predictions, assessments, and royal decrees march onward, until even I am reminded of a simple truth:   Submit.  Pray.   You are not in charge.  Even though you sometimes act as if you are. 

     A Princess of Peripatetic ProportionsNothing lasts forever.  This too shall pass.  Wanderlust.   The world is so beautiful.

These thoughts comfortably coexist in my brain.   Life is sometimes challenging on the home front, but it’s equally good as challenges not only make us stronger; they reveal who we truly are.

In the midst of trial, I’ve been known to contemplate what life is like outside my kingdom.  What is happening at this moment under the Eiffel Tower?  Does the Taj Mahal have a five o’clock shadow?  Is a child crying for her mother in Halong Bay?  Will the Asteroid belt continue holding up around us?  Who is hurting near me?  Can I help?

I realize life is indeed good.  Blessed, in fact.  This is not of my making, but of God’s.  He has given me life, health, and a family to be grateful for and good things too numerous to count.  He has given me tears to assist with trials and a trust to deal with life on life’s terms:  a temporary assignment.    Because I don’t have to be entirely responsible for generating my own strength or controlling outcome, I am immensely grateful.

I am a princess indeed.  A princess of grace.  Thank you.  Thank you very much!

Blah Blah Blog – Musings from a Writer’s Cat

“Cats are dangerous companions for writers because cat watching is a near-perfect method of writing avoidance.” – Dan Greenburg
“One cat just leads to another.” – Ernest Hemingway

      My Mama writes too much!  She says too many words.    Her house is a wreck and her mind is sometimes a mess.  Her desk is a tower of unpaid bills, unanswered correspondence, and stacks of cards never mailed to graduates, new moms, and birthday recipients.  There are receipts, Band-Aids, business cards, and post-it notes written in a code language known only to her.

But that’s just the surface of her desk.  Glance down a few feet.  Towers of books and magazines sit by idly while awaiting their use as reference material or sources of inspiration.  Their loneliness and lack of attention is obvious as the dust and spilled coffee stains upon their covers attest.  In the old days they would have been perused for pleasure purposes, but now they are handled hurriedly and thrown back down when Mama gets frustrated.

Mama’s behind on laundry, and all the rooms are starting to look like a Goodwill store whose employees have been on strike for a month.   Her refrigerator is barren, save the few science experiments festering in the back.  The scraps were long ago ravaged by her hungry children who have found clever ways to sustain life; that is they’ll head over to the dining establishment with the golden arches faster than Morgan Spurlock can say “Super Size Me”.

Here’s the worst part:  My dishes are empty!  Both of them! 

That’s right.  No water, no food!   Somebody needs to create and then call Social Services for Writers Cats!    Desperate times call for desperate measures.  There’s only one thing left that I can do:

It’s time for an intervention!

I jump up on Mama’s lap.  She keeps petting the keyboard more than she does me!  How utterly rude!  I purr louder, and knead the gooey tummy dough at the top of her pants.  Still nothing!  Hmmmpphh!    Fine then!  I can type as well as she can.  Watch this:

Sndkfp ♣d+=cc ♠ ☼4rjf030jfmg,  J  sg0-[345jl;3489f8*&#* ❤  843434 bsjskj1934u

What the furrball?  She’s still going!  It’s time to interrupt her line of sight.    I’m going to jump up on her screen so she’ll be forced to see me.  What’s this?  She isn’t even writing her best seller?  She was reading Facebook and searching for inspiration??

But she promised me she was working on The Great American Novel and I’d be dining on Fancy Feast out of crystal bowls for the rest of my days.

That’s it!  I’ve had it!  I’m going to jump down and turn off the…….

(PLAY THIS LINK AND YOU’LL KNOW):  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M-fTqAMND7g

The Silence of the Muse

Creator: Daeng Buasand – “Write Life”

Suggested Listening: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tpsDegqioVA

Grrrrrrr!  Today my muse is giving me the silent treatment!  I hate it when she does this.

It’s usually because we disagree over what’s deemed to be publish worthy.

“This isn’t quite right,” I say.  “It doesn’t flow.  You know, I’m just not feeling it.  How do you think the audience will?”

“Such a cop out,” says the muse, “the  truth of the matter is you’re just too chicken.  You’re more concerned with what people might think of you than being true to your work.”

“Excuse me?” I ask incredulously.  “The last time I checked work is a four letter word that has the concept of compensation attached to it at the end of a long day!”

“That’s your problem!  You always have to have things right now!  An ant has more courage than you!”

“Shut up!”  I mutter.  I ball up another one of her ideas and throw it in the trash.

“Fine then!  Sabotage yourself!” and POOF!  She’s gone.  Maybe what we were fleshing out together was better than I thought, now that I think about it.

It doesn’t matter now; she’s gone.  Invisible.   Maddeningly silent.   Fine then, indeed!  Pages get typed, edited, revised, and then filed again into an enlarging file titled “Unfinished”.    It could just as well be titled, “Unworthy”.

Hours pass.  Intermittent flashes of inspiration hit when I’m away from my desk and abruptly leave upon my return.  Now the day is over, and I’m mad that there isn’t anything I feel confident about publishing.    This is the divine torture of the artist:

Mistaking the value of the creation higher than the value of the creator.

The artist’s esteem can also be easily crushed by the future perception of an audience not yet known.    Artists insure the field of psychiatry will continue to stay prosperous.

I was about to cry, and then a little voice inside me rose up and let me know, just like my writing today, I am unfinished.  But that is a far cry from unworthy. 

Never mix up the two.    Even when your muse isn’t on speaking terms with you.

I know she’ll come back; she always does.

Oh look, she must have come back.  She just scampered across my playlist and left me this song as a peace offering.  I think we’re back together.  🙂

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jloQ6xsx3bE

“Unwritten” by Natasha Beddingfield

My Fickle Muse

Image

Try to find your deepest issue in every confusion and abide by that.  D.H. Lawrence

I have such a fickle muse.  This muse who always shows up uninvited when I’m busy working on anything in real life other than writing, and who arrives fashionably late or sometimes not at all when I most desperately need her.    She is like the invisible friend one has in childhood, but you get teased by older siblings if seen talking to her.

She is fleeting.  She rides the wind currents of air and rolls in and out with the changing of the tide.   She’s entirely unpredictable and unreliable, and yet I love her so.  I never know if this is the day she’ll show up.  If I could contain her, I would trap her so she would stay with me just a little while longer and whisper those things she wants only me to know, and even less she allows me to share.

She laughs at me when I’m frustrated, and sits oddly still, giving me the silent treatment, when I tell her I have all the time of the world to spend with her for now.  When I perceive pressure and deadlines, she is always out partying no doubt.

My muse, yes, he is a strange one.  Constantly changing form, and swirling all around me.   I carry a secret happiness knowing only I can see him sometimes.   I smile during inappropriate moments and places because he tells me things he doesn’t share with anyone else.  And then he says the magic three words, every writer’s heart longs to hear:

Write this down.

On nights when all is right in my world, the tasks of the day are done, and I’m about to shut my eyes for what will surely be a rare night of deep sleep, he hovers just inches over my freshly closed eyes.  I can barely feel the fluttering of him, but still I do.  WAKE UP!  Did you know about this?  What are you going to do with this news?    No, I think, not now.  I don’t need you right now.  Yes, my fickle muse is sometimes an annoying little pest.

If I’m in the shower, I sometimes can faintly hear him singing.  But if I try to sing with him, he quickly vanishes.    Sometimes he’ll write my memoirs when I’m not looking, and when I find them and read them, I’ll shriek, “Hey!  That’s not true!” and then I compose myself, because when I try to recall the past, sometimes, I’m not sure.

Like a cat, he sometimes taps across my keyboard leaving a trail of misspelled words, misplaced and excess punctuation.   The ultimate revisionist, he sometimes substitutes made up words for real ones.  He’s a prankster too.  Sometimes, when feeling particularly devilish, I’ll be nearly finished writing a post, a page, or an outline, and I will hit “save” as he simultaneously deletes what was surely my best work.  Finito!

She certainly contributes to a mild case of crazy.  Sometimes she’ll brighten the room with such a huge flash of inspiration.  I’ll get two or three sentences written.  Amazing!  I think to myself.  Then, faster than the flash of words she just gave me, she runs off with a band of her bohemian friends, leaving me stranded for days without capability of follow through.  I look back and don’t even know what we were talking about in the first place.

Sometimes when life is unbelievably complicated, and writing feels like a chore with no joy, she’s suddenly sitting beside me, my biggest cheerleader.  You can do this, you know she whispers.  I always knew you would, how come you didn’t?  She sees my tears I cry in secret, and carries them to painters who need vibrant water to mix with their duller colors.

My muse, I love him so.   When I feel lost and alone, he’ll stop and sit beside me when I pray.  I sense a calmness just knowing he is there.   When I’m out and about mixing with all the people of the world, he always leaves me be, because he knows that I know deep down, I am fine without him.

Together we form words ex nihilo!  We create beauty alla prima!  After the creation is finished, he leaves.    I know why.  I’m not his only one.

Yes, she leaves me, not because she’s selfish, but because she’s generous.   See, she has to help the other artists too.  There are poets also struggling to find the perfect word, painters who go to the ends of the earth searching for the truest blue, the ballerina who strives for the perfect grand battement, the singer who aches for the melody that will complement the lyrics, or the pianist who seeks to arrange a composition to perfection.    My muse is not faithful to me, but is full of faith in me, and for that I’m grateful.

Yes, sometimes I see the calling card of my muse in others too.  It’s the secret glance of other artists.  It’s the question within a question that they ask.  Or it’s the connection one’s soul has when meeting another like-minded person.   You see, a muse always leaves their mark.  You know it; the bumper sticker that states “Practice Random Acts of Kindness and Senseless Acts of Beauty”.   That’s the reaction many a muse has caused.

Tempus Fugit!  Our time together is finished.  I leave here, only to set foot out into the world, searching, always longing to find my muse, and bring her safely home.

Suggested Listening:  Cosmic Love by Florence and the Machine

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2EIeUlvHAiM