Friday, April 16, 2010

Artist Vs. Engineer - The Roller Derby of Art Installation

What happens when a quality control engineer and a stubborn artist try to install art in their home together?

It's a total smack-down between the aesthetics of eye vs. the laws of geometry. The whole experience reminded me of the roller derby I went to last Saturday at Key Arena...Fouls, time outs, cursing, and skating around each other. (Only we didn't have mini skirts or names like Astro Glide).

It all started at about 10pm on a Monday night when I said to my husband, "Hey, let's hang those painted violins I made in college in our front entry." Sounded like a great idea to me - and should it really take more than two hours? Being patient and supportive, my husband agreed. By midnight, all my violins were spread out across the whole living room floor and we were both cranky. Let's just say that the planning/time management side of a quality engineer won round one...

The next evening, with renewed zeal, we went to work. Since we couldn't really test the pattern we had spread out across the living room floor on the wall, I thought it would be a good idea to cut templates out of grocery bags to see what the overall effect would be before we actually started pounding nails. That turned out to be a good idea. Artist 1, Engineer, 1. By the end of that night, our wall was covered in paper bag violins. We went to bed pleased.

We had a good game plan. We would take one row of paper violins, start measuring, and make sure that they followed an exact geometric pattern up the stairs. You know, kind of take the messy "idea" of the paper violins and firm it up with actual measurements. Each row would follow a line paralleling the banister, and every instrument would be precisely equidistant from the next. Good idea, right?

Wrong. What worked mathematically looked horrible to the eye. What looked aesthetically pleasing was absurdly asymmetrical. You could taste our frustration in the air. Artist and Engineer were on a collision course along the flat track.

So, we took a breather. We ditched the measuring tape and the level. We remembered that the most beautiful violins themselves are completely asymmetrical. And then, we made a compromise. It gave some room to geometry (used a string to keep the bottom lines of each row of instruments parallel), and then eyeballed the rest (the instruments are not evenly spaced and the lines are not parallel to each other.)

We were happy with the result...which strangely looks pretty symmetrical even though it's a total optical illusion since all the lines diverge and none of the spacing is quite even.

But you know what? We are becoming parents soon (my due date is in exactly one month) and so compromise, flexibility, and imperfection seem like a pretty healthy combo right about now.



Rebecca Bush said...

Right on! It looks great. Although I also kind of liked the look of the paper bag cut out violins too... ;)

isobel said...

That looks like an entire violin section! Fabulous! Love your story too. A slice of what life is all about. Puppy needs to stand there permanently though...too cute.

jog said...

It always amazes me how symmetry, so perfect in the calculations, does not always win the day in reality, and that asymmetry more often completes what we think our desire for symmetry desires.

That your two temperaments stuck it out for three days with so much back and forth through open lines of communication means your baby is very lucky (and probably won't get away with a thing as a teeneager!).

michelle said...

Great story Sarah, and beautiful results. The violins are so joyful and the arrangement works! How lucky for baby to have such amazing parents. With an engineer for a Dad and a scientist for a husband I completely get the push and pull that goes on. As you found, once you get the hang of it you make a great team.
See you soon!