The Story of the Discovery of the First Flaw
PreludeIt was 1968. I was 27 years old. We were living in Bolinas, California in a two-story modified A-frame with a panoramic view of the Pacific Ocean. I had recently experienced the Ecstacy of Geometry and the Dream of the Beautiful Structure and had decided to make a painting celebrating the exquisite inter-relationships between the equilateral triangle, the circle and the hexagon.
I wanted to work large and use lots of transparent glazes to create a sense of overwhelming, limitless complexity. I decided to paint on a finely sanded rigid ground to help with the precision I would need to make the geometry work.
PreparationsI went to the nearest lumberyard which was a short drive up the coast in the small town of Point Reyes. There I bought a 4' x 8' sheet of 1/4" plywood with the best quality surface I could afford. I took it home and cut it down to a 4' x 5' rectangle. I added a support of 1" x 2" strips on the back to keep it from warping and to provide a way to attach a frame. Then I proceeded to sand the surface as smooth as I could make it. When I finished sanding, I applied several coats of white gesso, sanding lightly between each coat. Finally it was ready to receive the the triangular grid.
Laying out the precise grid of equilateral triangles took a great deal of care, measuring and re-measuring. The sides of the triangles were about 2" long. It took an awful lot of interlocking triangles to fill up the 4' x 5' surface.
Once the grid was finally laid down, I began painting. Each
corner of each triangle was the center of a circle. Each circle
was painted with a transparent glaze. Where the circles overlapped
new shapes were created and they were painted with transparent
glazes too. The spot in the center of each circle, was painted
with phosphorescent paint so the whole grid glowed in the dark
like a sky of ordered stars.
Disaster StrikesI had developed most of the surface and knew that the painting was nearing completion, when one day, the low afternoon sun spread across the panel and revealed a long jagged shadow on the painted panel. It took me a few minutes to realize that the shadow was not being cast by something in my studio but was in fact created by a depression in the plywood panel itself! Deep in the wood sandwich that was this piece of plywood was a crack, some missing wood, a flaw!
My heart sank. This wonderfully complex work of many months was decimated by a cruel random event. I was paralyzed. Should I try to somehow fill the depression? No, that would destroy the smooth continuity of the surface. Would I have to completely abandon the project? Lose months of work?
I tired to ignore it. But everytime I caught a glimpse of the offending shadow I felt sick to my stomach, frustrated and sad.
The DiscoveryThen one day, while pondering the challenge presented by the flaw in my painting and the incredible power it held over me, I realized that one solution might be to carefullly paint the flaw itself! Instead of searching for ways to conceal it or deny its presence I would announce it, I would celebrate it
And that is exactly what I did. The results were at once totally surprising and liberating!
Flaws Take OverWhen I saw how successful a simple act of cooperating with the forces of the universe could be, I wanted more. I wanted to experience it again, to understand it better, to prove and demonstrate the power inherent in merely announcing a flaw. So I proceeded to immerse myself in flaws: seeking flaws, coveting flaws, collecting flaws, noting flaws in the world around me and whenever possible announcing and celebrating flaws.
I did flaw drawing and flaw painting. I found ways to celebrate flaws no matter in what form they happened to be, whether on flat surfaces or on 3-dimensional objects. I learned how to announce flaws that were not just on the surfaces of objects or images but flaws in interpersonal relationships and in social settings. Wherever I went, if I experienced something that I perceived as ugly, or a mistake or a flaw, I considered it an immediate challenge to figure out how to celebrate, embrace or announce the flaw and would also eagerly anticipate the delightful freedom and beauty that I knew would arise if I were to succeed in properly announcing the flaw.
"Flaws" Is My CredoOver the years, Flaws and Flaws Theory have become basic components of my creative method, my educational philosophy and my personal philosophy. I have used the fundamental premise (embracing vs. denying/resisting) in politics, parenting and teaching as well as in poetry, music and all the visual media.
Carried to its logical extreme, my immersion in flawspace has enabled me to appreciate, cope with and welcome chance and that which is random in my work and in my life. It has served as a great tempering force in relation to my often all-consuming need for comprehensive control, the latter being something that has been both a blessing and curse my whole life.
I trust Flaws and Flaws Theory. "Flaws" is one of my three
allies. "Flaws" is my credo.