This weekend I attended the Architecture & Design Film Festival at Tippet Rise Art Center located in Fishtail, Montana. Being there felt like landing on the moon, some two hours from Bozeman. My boyfriend and I took a few back roads to find the 10,000-acre ranch, and after it was all said and done, the adventure was proof enough that the beauty of life is in the journey, the getting there.
We saw two films. Strange and Familiar featured a new wave of architecture on Fogo Island, design that celebrates the history and culture of a place. The visionary behind the project, Zita Cobb, sought to bring new energy to the island through the thoughtful juxtaposition old and new styles and concepts. The main building is a 29-room inn, including an art gallery and restaurant, meant to be a space for outsiders to come and visit a place created by insiders. The architecture intentionally tips its hat to the coming together of, well, the strange and familiar. As my mother recently reminded me, “The beauty of life is in the contrast of things.” This isn’t far off from something Cobb said in the 54-minute film: “We only know who we are in relation to the other.”
This is an ever-present theme for me this fall, in my life inside and outside of the classroom.
Revisiting Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics for the second time, the first time was in graphic design school, has brought to my attention many great reminders. Here, for the sake of space and time, I will focus on themes I encountered at Tippet Rise and how they relate to our reading.
“We see ourselves in everything,” he says (33). As ridiculous as this sounds, it is true. Puffy clouds against a blue sky so easily become shapes of animate subjects, of animals or faces. He pushes the fact that the simpler the visual, the more likely the observer is to respond because there is a greater chance that she will relate, or see herself in the image. One of the risks of applying too many details in comics, according to McCloud, is that the observer may be “far too aware of the messenger to fully receive the message” (37). The other side of the coin here is not to be ignored, for it is just as significant when it comes to communicating with an audience. Instead of two dots for eyes, a line for a mouth and a circle encompassing these marks to create what we recognize as a face, “Other characters were drawn more realistically to objectify them, emphasizing their ‘otherness’ from the reader” (44). Power, then, is at the fingertips of the creator, and before we can put this to good use…McCloud helps us to understand.
The second film we saw was called Bending Sticks, and featured artist Patrick Dougherty. He creates incredible sculptures primarily with willow saplings. His passion for this specific material was inspiring, and reminds me of another point made by McCloud. “The mastery of any medium using minimal elements has long been considered a noble aspiration” (83).
Much like Dougherty limits himself by using sticks, as a writer, I would say that my approach to the craft of writing is limited by language, words. Rather than get hung up on this fact, discouraged, or feel as though it is necessary that I incorporate more of the five senses into my work through a variety of mediums (film, photo, music, etc.) I recognize the great challenge of it all. Please don’t misunderstand me. I am a woman with many passions. There is a place and time for film, photography and music. But I do believe that words alone can be enough.
Someday…I’ll get there.