the art of disorder

repurposed pigpen fencing

Last night I watched the Bill Cunningham New York documentary and was struck by at least two things, one of which I'll mention now: artists like Mr. Cunningham are often messy, collecting creatures in their personal habitat, non-minimalists, just as Ray Eames was described by former underlings in Eames: The Architect & the Painter—an obsessive curator of life whose office functioned as a prop room for the Eames' films and other projects. (Sadly enough, I also learned watching the Eames documentary recently that their private life was equally messy, Charles a prototypical, charismatic charmer who would have left Ray for at least one other woman—just as he'd left his first wife for Ray—had the much-younger paramour not been friends with them both and whose conscience pricked.) Because of therapy and because I teach a class in which students create a Life Map (a visual representation of their values, goals, and dreams on poster or PowerPoint), for the purposes of wish fulfillment and sending one's desires out into the Universe, I have been trying the last year or so to let myself be messier, at least on one wall.

I don't know if anyone else has an inspiration board made of pigpen fencing and thrifted vintage wooden clothespins (via the Burnside Goodwill two years ago), but if she does, my idea for it was born as follows.

My then-husband and I were living in an L-shaped condo complex, when a young woman moved in next door after the place had been sitting empty for months (because of bad views and a glutted market). Until then, our two cats had had free reign of the shared back balcony that was split by only a wrought-iron rail. But now the neighbor's pug was sneaking over and depositing his daily doo on our side, while our cats were still roaming the whole deck, owning the place as cats do, such trespass seeming to me impolite, though not as rude as piles of dog dung. The neighbor was pleasant and apologetic, hopping the fence to come scoop the poop, but still, "good fences make good neighbors." (Just try telling that to pets.)

There was much discussion with friends and family members about fence reinforcement. My step-father's solution won, so on his next visit he brought a length of black-spray-painted pigpen fencing and those black-plastic ties police use for cheap wrist restraints that must be cut off to come off. We secured the fencing to the wrought iron, snipping a few squares to fit. And we felt proud of ourselves for our puzzle-solving monkey brains (or at least I did)—until I noticed some days later that our non-fat cat was squeezing herself around the fence in a rather precarious way (though we were only on the second floor) to access the neighbor's side of the balcony to stare out per usual at the facing neighbor's sad guard dog who barked all the time because he never received any attention other than food shoved at him twice a day.

But before we could conceive of fence-plan B, the balcony-sharing neighbor suddenly moved out, back to a livelier part of town, she said, no offense. And then we moved out, and we became I, and I was left with a big wire grid without pig or purpose. So one inspired day, lacking wall art, I hammered a nail in the plaster of my new room, hung the fence vertically, and pulled out my bag of secondhand clothespins. I like that the piece forms net-like waves and valleys, reminding me of computerized 3-D grid illustrations of Einstein's theory of relativity or the mathematical skeletons of video games—numbers and planes in motion. And the wooden clothespins make gentle clips.

Part of me, though, wants to file and store away the few hanging papers, postcards, and necklaces, tidy up. There isn't much color, either—note the sepia effect and word-heavy inspirations. But I'm working on it. Someday I'd like to take a drawing class and learn to fill blank pads with lines and form. Maybe the older I get, the less I'll say. Or maybe I'll take up typography, words viewed through a microscope, form over content. Life offers so many narrative twists. "Man plans, God laughs"—and still we dream.

geese formation, Sauvie Island, October 2011

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