The year was 1987.
There was this blank wall at the back of the family room. The previous owners hung framed mirrors back there and it looked good, but we wanted something different. So much to do, moving in, though, so we let it slide.
Our friends were all beginning to buy large-screen TVs that were the size of a two-car garage. We thought of putting a TV on that side of the room, the only side it would fit on, but our old (even then) cable line would not extend that far from the source without significantly degrading our signal. And those big old fat-butt TVs were really expensive. We carried on with a small TV that fit in the niche built for that use on the opposite wall.
I tried various pieces of art on the wall, but nothing was big, or bright, enough. It’s kind of a big wall, at the end of a fairly long room.
One day, some time in the mid-nineties, my husband brought home an original oil painting from a charity auction. I hope it was a good charity, and that the money was put to good use, because I did not fall in love with this piece of art. Nonetheless, the painting was large, it was bright, it filled the space, and the colors–mostly orange and blue–went. It hung on the wall for eight to ten years. I never liked it that much, and each year, I liked it less.
One day, I took the painting down and foisted it off on an antique and collectible shop. I left it there on consignment, with the understanding that if it did not sell in thirty days, it would be donated to charity. I was asked if I wanted to be notified in the event it did not sell, to be given an opportunity to take it back. I did not.
Once again, I was left with a blank wall.
One Christmas, I attempted to hang a bunch of angels and lights up there, but really, it looked pathetic. Lame. Back to the blank wall.
So I had an idea: What if I took close-up photos of my backyard roses and hung them in an arrangement of eight? Right size, right colors. Off I went to Ikea to buy eight cheap, black, eight-by-ten frames.
Just beyond where they had the frames I was attracted to an oddity (not an unusual experience at Ikea). It appeared to be a package of three rolls of gauzy, jewel-toned fabric. I thought it was the type of fabric sold in craft shops: sheer, pretty stuff you might ruche around the tree, or over a mantle, at Christmas. I can always use more of that stuff, I said to myself, and purchased it, along with the frames.
Once home, I began printing up my photography.
The effect of all those roses was lame, almost as lame as the Christmas decorations had been. Even before I even framed them, I could see I had myself another dead end.
I decided to look at the fabric I’d bought, to cheer myself up.
Turned out, it wasn’t fabric. It was art.
It was a triptych of an out-of-focus orchid. The entire three panels measured about eight by fifteen feet all together. It was awful, and I could not imagine anyone hanging this thing up, it was so ugly.
But the colors were beautiful, jewel tones ranging from ruby, to gold, to emerald, to sapphire, to amythyst. I thought for a moment I could still use it to ruche around during the holidays, but then I read the tag: No washing, no drying, no dry cleaning, and no ironing. The material was an uber-unnatural polyester; I couldn’t use it for anything. There was nothing to do but take it back.
But then, like a zombie, not thinking, I brought over my eight frames. I began laying them down. At first, I attempted to put them together, to keep the orchid together. No. I placed them again, choosing to frame the prettiest color rectangles.
I had my wall. I had my art piece. The year was 2010. It took twenty-three years to fill my wall.
What I learned from this serendipitous artistic journey:
1. Had I known what I was buying, I wouldn’t have bought it. Therefore, it is sometimes better not to know what I’m doing, and to do it anyway.
2. I returned to Ikea a week or so later, and saw the ugly triptych displayed on the wall. Had I taken note of it, I would have known what I was buying, and would not have bought it. Fortunately, I was oblivious. I learned that being oblivious can sometimes be a good thing. I would argue that this is a different lesson from the first. The first was lesson was the value of ignorance; the second, obliviousness.
3. Sometimes it takes twenty-three years to fill a blank wall. I need to learn patience.
4. It is good to let my zombie-self take over some tasks sometimes.
There it is: Ignorance, obliviousness, patience, and zombie-ness, all working together, solved my art problem.
Photo: I took it. All rights reserved.