The Beauty of Brokenness
Shells learn geometry when they are young:
the golden mean, Fibonacci curves,
how elegance works and how to blur their markings.
How to be definitive and ways to deceive
as taught by the currents of the earth.
They are lost things left behind. In a moment they are gone.
Creatures self-sequestered, hiding most days,
praying for a way out of winds and breaking waves.
Hoping to be back home.
To the ancients, shells were body and soul.
Sandy love letters where brokenness and beauty met.
I collect them and open up the jagged and the smooth,
reimagining the shattering so suddenly they soothe.
Having spent my entire life close to the ocean, I’ve walked past broken shells on countless occasions without giving them much thought. Nature’s debris on the beach. Then one day, out of nowhere, it occurred to me that broken shells look a lot like brush strokes. I wondered if I could paint with them. This series of pieces is the result of that wonderment, a naive impulse to try something new.
I’ve approached these assemblages through the same lens that I take to my other work: rooted in the principles of poetics and form with emphasis on color and line. The results are fields of textured shapes, primitive and elegant, that speak to a human effort to honor that which is timeless and eternal.
A musician once said: In art, truth and reality begin when one no longer understands what one is doing or what one knows, and when there remains an energy that is all the stronger for being constrained, controlled, and compressed. It is therefore necessary to present oneself with the greatest humility: white, pure, and candid with a mind as if empty, in a spiritual state analogous to that of a communicant approaching the Lord’s Table. Obviously it is necessary to have all of one’s experience behind one, but to preserve the freshness of one’s instincts.
From Jazz, by Henri Matisse. 1947