The Looking Glass
I chose the picture for today because it illustrates one of the two purposes of design. To put down shapes on paper, canvas, or wood or to play notes into the air can be decorative or symbolic. I don’t mean that decorative is less than symbolic. It might be delightful to the eye to such an extent that it transforms our emotions or our whole sense of life. Decoration can lift us out of the mundane and give us a sense of a side of life that is evanescent and might even give us a higher view of life as to see how every second is potentially beauty full.
Symbolic, on the other hand, is reaching through the looking glass to something that is real here and now and yet deeper than we can know. Symbols don’t just point to a more profound reality, they participate in it.
In the piece of wood, for instance, the viewer sees two almost sigma curves surrounding two ovals. This was a Christmas ornament I made for Sharon one year. The dark wood is walnut, and the light wood is holly (I received this as a gift from a lady who worked at Target and had known me several years ago. It was part of a cache of wood her father had left when he died, and she wanted it to go to me because she felt I would make good use of it.). The arrangement of the shapes reached out to me. They communicated intimacy, motherhood. From there they went to Mary and Jesus. They spoke and speak in a language my words can’t express. They are not overly sentimental (or so it seems to me). The wood speaks of these things as facts of life – not greater than other facts, but facts nonetheless. They reach through the looking glass within and without.