I spent this Mother’s Day weekend in Seattle with my lovely daughter, Ceinwen. We flew up to visit my mom and to see a show at the Francine Seders Gallery—a stunning series of drawings by my dear artist friend, Fred Birchman. (Please check out his show at http://www.sedersgallery.com) We also spent some time exploring Seattle.
One of the standards I use to measure an urban landscape by is the amount of public art—to me it says so much about the soul of a city. Seattle has a lot. Especially impressive is SAM’s (Seattle Art Museum’s) Olympic Sculpture Park, an open and living green, nine-acre transformed industrial site on the Seattle waterfront overlooking the Olympic Mountains and the Puget Sound.
It was a gorgeous, warm, sunny afternoon as we wandered through the sculpted space of this urban park. We strolled past Mark di Suvero’s Bunyon’s Chess—wood pilings suspended between steel to interact with the wind.
We peeked over the wall at Claes Oldenburg’s Typewriter Eraser—a humorous piece inspired by an object antiquated to anyone under forty.
We moved through, moved around, undulated between Richard Serra’s Wake, a landscape of steel forms reminiscent of both waves and of ships’ hulls; it’s the viewer’s own movement that gives the mammoth sculpture motion.
We stopped and gazed at Alexander Calder’s The Eagle, 6 tons of painted steel, and talked about how the negative space—the shapes of sky and grass and buildings seen between the limbs of orange steel, are just as important, just as evocative as the sculpture itself and how the positive actually sculpts the negative space around it.
Which got me thinking about negative space. Sculptors, painters, printmakers, draftsmen, (draftspersons?), even dancers, understand the vital importance of negative space. We writers don’t always think of it in those terms, but I think it is essential to remember that what isn’t there can be just as important as what is there. Think about dialogue and how tension is created by what is not said. (It’s a good tool to keep handy in your writer’s tool box!)
But beyond technique, we need to leave space for readers to move through, room for readers to make a story their own. Too many details can take up this space and actually deprive the reader the pleasure of filling in what has meaning for them. Elision in a piece of writing is the shared space between writer and reader, where the reader brings his or her own experience to the page.
Another way to think about it: whether we paint, sculpt, dance, write or sing, the space between the form is where we breathe. So take a deep breath...
Take Good Care,