Thursday, August 20, 2009

The force of beauty

Sometimes I wake up and see the folly - not of all man's works but of mine. Yellow Bird is a fantasy that I cannot possibly realize, too off the beaten track, too hot in the summer, too much for one person etc etc. Jay has been bushhogging with my tractor recently, and doing quite a bit. But the weeds seem to be winning. And progress on building projects is next to zero. I say to myself that I am waiting for the pound to recover from its precipitous decline last year. So this morning I took a tour on the four wheeler to see what I could still get Tony Young to cut professionally with his 10' wide bushhog. And I glimpsed again the envisioned YB, the rolling grass, the place that could feed the dreams of others too. And with that vision back in place, everything changed. The YB dream is back on track. So what is happening here?
One sociobiological explanation of the appeal of landscape painting, and look-out points etc. is that when we were apes, we would climb trees both for safety from predators, and to get a better view of possible threats. Landscape vision represents security. There may be SOMETHING in this. Views of dense forests, or jungles seem less attractive, and that might be because we cannot see what might be hiding in there. Desertscapes, on the other hand, are attractive only when there are interesting dune formations, or wave patterns in the sand, or oases. And even then, there seems to be something lacking? This suggests that security is not enough. Yellow Bird grabbed me because there was a perfect mix of meadows and woods, cleared and dark spaces.If artistic values sublimate naturalistic ones, then one would expect analogs of the concern for both security and interest to re-appear. Total clarity would offer real control, but over nothing. At the naturalistic level, a landscape with no dark spaces would hide no predators, but also provide no cover for edible creatures (or plants). If sublimation moves us from considerations of diet and survival to ones of information - richness of input combined with a capacity for forming and shaping - would that account for landscape values? And for changes in our 'views' of landscape? (Think of the glories of wilderness, on the one hand, and the gardens of Versailles, on the other.) Somewhere in the middle, towards Versailles perhaps, Jencks' Garden of Cosmic Speculation. It would be an interesting theme for a YB photoshoot - the tame and the wild, and the battle/creative tension between them.