Monday, November 05, 2007

A Boston Less-on

This is Boston:

And therefore, I am quite certain that the neighbors on Dwight Street object to this display:

I'm conflicted about the lesson to be learned here.

Half of me says that people should fall in line with and celebrate the "melody" of their street, reining in (as inappropriate) any desire to turn "inside out" the bubbling creative spirit of one's own personality. This is the half of me that agrees with a friend's mother who once counseled "Dress to please others. Eat to please yourself."

Half of me says that gloriously "gaudy" and childlike free expression is the central ingredient to visual richness, and that conformity breeds death. This is the half of me that will always choose whole wheat over white. Chocolate over vanilla.

Sometimes when driving through the historic town centers of Connecticut in which clusters of historic homes are all painted pale variations of white, you find a house saturated with festive lime green or vivid acqua, and research tells you about acrimonious town meetings in which neighbors band together to pass ordinances forcing such a one to repaint according to "the look" of the district. Pink flamingos may be fine for South Beach, but...

When one first begins painting, or taking pictures (or blogging?), one has a tendency to use all the colors in the box, and to depict and to say as much about everything as time and personal appetite allow. After awhile, a more calm sense of direction prevails, and we each edit our expressions to that which has, through fire, become most truly our own voice.

Is this a good thing, or is it just a sign of age? If they are both "stages of development" through which we all pass, is there room for both on the same street, or, oughtn't they be clustered separately?


Anonymous said...

Oh my. I was looking for snow white and a dwarf or two in that vivid creation.

I am thinking that impulse control is either present in abundance, or wholly inadequate. Though both extremes can be tempered by experience. With painting or photography, the final creation can often be rendered hideous with the inclusion of one too many "frills" of creative fancy. One's true voice can be drowned in the cacaphoney of competing finery. Perhaps wisdom gained through trial and error (or rebuke) is synonymous with age. The very word "refined" as applied to taste underscores a growth process. I certainly don't believe that refined necessarily implies conformity, just a narrowing of focus that better evokes intent.

Childlike free expression and gaudiness is a necessity at times to reinvent oneself, and to throw it all out there to see what sticks. To be in a constant state of gaudiness is perhaps an indicator of the inability to progress?

Anyhow, you have made me think this morning, and I have therefore narrowed my focus on free expression to a less cluttered background. :)

Cooper said...

Like you I'm torn between my distaste at seeing such classical beauty marred and my belief that people should be allowed to express their individual creativity. I lean towards the latter in this case, though. I would enjoy the delicious wackiness of that decor while out on walks, but I wouldn't want it right next door to me. Hypocritical, I know.

"After awhile, a more calm sense of direction prevails, and we each edit our expressions to that which has, through fire, become most truly our own voice" ... this is a fantastic line and perhaps the best I've ever read defining what I believe is the essence of good blogging ... a honed, authentic personal voice.

evilganome said...

Tony, that house has had those poodles for many a long year. They were old news when I moved here in 1975. I have to say I am rather fond of the "Poodle House". I am also rather surprised that the humorless yuppies now living in that section of town haven't somehow got a court order to have the ornamentation removed.

By the way, the back of the house is even more over the top.

I do see your point and I will honestly admit my own liking for the place is purely sentimental.

dpaste said...

Hmmm. When I started blogging I used only the equivalent of the primary colors in the crayon box because I didn't know how to use anything else. It is only with experience that I have added photos, links and embedded videos, adding more depth to my posts.

My subject matter also started out rather tame, and it was only as I read other's posts and gained confidence in my own voice that my pallet grew and the intimacy deepened.

Initially, I did probably try some garish colors simply because they were there, later to discover that they did not add anything to the overall picture. So perhaps your metaphor does have bearing on my experience to an extent.

Will said...

The question for me isn't so much "does this harmonize with the surrounding neighborhood?" as "does this have any design integrity in and of itself?" Other than as the entrance for a Mary Kaye outlet, I think it's pretty bad.

Then again, there was the lobby of D-4 . . . . :-)

Anonymous said...

Finding your own voice is the key to becoming a good writer. AFAIC, authenticity and simplicity are very important to me.

I don't have anything to add that hasn't been said more eloquently already.

Joe Jubinville said...

A little nutmeg goes a long way. But a little is sometimes exactly what's needed.

Mike said...

I was hoping that the garish decor was made of snow and would melt away in June, like the rest of winter in Boston.

Provincetown evokes the same horror/delight in me sometimes.

BigAssBelle said...

i'm all for creative expression and living outside the box and saying "fuck you" to the lines as i scribble with my crayon.

it was, therefore, a shock to me to find that i had a intense visceral reaction when neighbors painted their classic golden large brick house purple. with darker purple mortar lines. and then a huge flowering something over the garage doors, something purple with touches of green, sort of bulbous.

it stayed that way for five years, until they had been trying to sell for two with no offers. one day a sandblaster appeared and then the purple was no more and i breathed a sigh of relief standing in the open window of my proper brown brick cottage.

walking down that street in boston, i would laugh madly at the presumed outrage of the proper neighbors confronted with the poodle house. hahaha for you. how dreadful for me looking at purple.
alas, that doesn't say much good about me.

more cowbell said...

Perfect illustraton to your idea! Maybe they actually think they're going with understatement since they've refrained from adding color to the poodles?

I remember when I first moved to Hungary ('97) I thought the houses in many neighborhoods were so gaudy. Hello, tackmeister! On one street, you'd find houses painted pink, mint, peach, lavender, bright yellow, blue -- a rainbow with roofs. I eventually learned that the color explosion happened after communism ended in '89. It seemed like a celebration instead of a tackfest after that.

Great post, with the blogging connection. Hmm.

Evil-G: pics of the rear view?)

evilganome said...

I would like to add a little historical context to the poodle house. 30 odd years ago, that area was far from high end. It was indeed sketchy at best. The queen who owned and decorated, or if it is your viewpoint desecrated that townhouse was an early gay settler in what was to become, in its hayday the gaybourhood that supplanted Beacon Hill.

If he was poking his finger in the eye of convention, he was also making a statement at the time which seemed to say, "Look at me! I am a screaming queen, and I defy you to do something about it!"

Times have changed and I will not argue that fact that it is an exercise in bad taste. The sculptures are not even well executed and whatever rhyme or reason to the inclusion of such disparate elements has always eluded me. If it has any saving grace it is, or at least was, a personal statement.

I a wild attempt to justify my defense of such obvious bad taste I will attempt to quote Dianna Vreeland.

"I'd rather see someone with bad taste, than someone with no taste."

The implication being that in order to carry off good taste or bad taste you have to care deeply, to love the face that you present to the world. Tastelessness, true tastelessness is what it implies. Following convention and rather than taking any bold personal step, simply following the herd mentality.