Thursday, April 13, 2017


The years I have spent knowing Virginia and her tastes in art have helped me appreciate the sensibility she brings to the question of "taste" in art.  She coined the term Visual Vernacular to describe the complex set of tangibles and intangibles that produce a work of art.

The media, the medium, an artist's training and predilections.  The style becomes a vehicle for this Visual Vernacular.  She maintains it is deeply rooted in the emotions and even the spirituality of the artist.  So much so, once attuned to the idea, you can begin to sense the emotional states of artists for when they were making particular piece.  I will even go so far as to suggest you could even tell what music they were listening to while creating a work.

Photo taken by Cort Wrotnowski

Now, this is not a work of art, persay, but it speaks to the Visual Vernacular in an interesting way.  On a particular sunny day, light traveled through the edge of my dining room table, made of thick glass, and produced this rainbow on the rug.  A work of Nature pasted on to a work of Man - light and rug. Photons and dyed fibers.  They struggle to match.

It is not hard to imagine works of art with similar issues.  Whether by accident or design, an artist can find the work taking on a life of it's own, a voice of it's own - A Visual Vernacular.  Now the word vernacular connotes something that is commonly understood, commonly shared.  I maintain that is still the case even when the work seems to produce itself.

The simplicity and beauty of a rainbow found in its striking colors easily lands on things that conflict with it like that rug.  In conflicting, they are both altered - a sort of aesthetic dialectic.  Frankly, I don't think that works as a piece of art.  Sure, to each his own.  It is not hard to imagine an artist with some other set of tastes singing the praises of that photo.  Not me.  There is a coarseness, hence the title, that is brought out,especially by the yellow.  Sure, they are all "reflected" colors, but some are more reflected than others. The hue of the rug is beige.  The rainbow totally obscures that earth color.  The beige only shows when the rainbow has exhausted it's spectrum.

Perhaps more to do with the glass, but the odd pattern of the rainbow is curious as well.  So to this becomes a metaphor for the Visual Vernacular.  However perfect the artist's skills, the medium will always impose it's imperfections.  Inclusions, distortions, tiny air bubbles, and other problems can all contibute to a unique look and feel.

This photo raises another interesting question:  What is captured versus what is created?

The photo captured a moment as brief and transient as any.  The earth revolves, the sun "moves" and the picture is gone.  As brief as a brushstroke itself.  AND, if there was a chance, it would be a brushstroke done over until the balance of light and fiber were more harmonious.  That said, this kind of visual conflict is a part of life as well.  To me, it is more like light and mud admixed.  It's strange.

So what is this photo's Visual Vernacular.  Well it is the vernacular of an amateur photographer grabbing a fading opportunity.  There is no time for composition.  Get the fundamental beauty before it disappears.

So maybe the Visual Vernacular of photography is different from painting.  The immediate demands of something gone quickly changes the rules.  In photography, maybe there is more capture than creation, while in painting there is more creation than capture.

How about this?  For the painter there is a far larger sense of "wow" that requires exploration and development in order to arrive at some understanding.  For the photographer, the sense of "wow" is forced to be immediate, even if it is contrived in a studio with controlled lighting conditions.

I will explore these ideas in the next installment.

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