13 January 2010

The "Messy" Aesthetic

It is often looked down upon, especially in this country, but I find the messy aesthetic romantic: books in stacks--all of their colors jumbled together, walking through a swishy layer of papers on the floor, staplers at ease or perhaps hiding. In this chaotic little universe, I am a god. It awaits me to impose order and to engage it in some creative purpose.

The mismatched outfit is in style--a look which could only have been born in academia, where the possibilities of sweater-and-sock combination are endless. I think it was Einstein who mostly gave up wearing socks, a look which I saw expertly modeled by an undergraduate yesterday, and in the snow no less! Looks like this, which may be born in apathy or originality, are taken up by mass-produced "fashion." Suddenly jeans come pre-torn. And principles on how to achieve an eclectic look are given. Sadly, the organic process of wearing holes into your jeans is cut out. Free People advertises ways in which their products can be incorporated into an eclectic look.

The mismatching of place settings is in vogue as well--using several patterns of glasses, dishes, and silverware on the same table. (For sixty dollars you can buy the This & That Handblown Glasses set--a set of six artfully mismatched handblown glasses from Napa Style.) If you want to mismatch, I say go to the thrift store, go to the flea market, or better yet, use pieces with which you already have a history--pieces from a family member, pieces you grew up with. The key to "eclecticism" is not seeking out some sort of mismatched harmony, or looking for the greatest possible disparity between pieces, it's in only collecting pieces that you really, really like individually, and then in putting them together. Somehow, harmony will emerge. That harmony is very you-centric, as it should be. It is, after all, your table.

I grew up in a house where everything matched, and so I always found it fun to visit messier houses--where the plates didn't match, where they were definitely not winning the battle against clutter, and where, most importantly, they didn't seem to mind. And I found that the people with the mismatched plates always seemed to have the best conversation.

I find the "haphazard" distribution of candles and flowers romantic as well. Tea lights are inexpensive--at most five dollars for a hundred candles. You will want to distribute them, like stars, around the room. And you must light them all at once. I've never had a sufficient quantity of flowers to do a great deal of sub-dividing, but I suggest distributing them around the house... casually, sneakily. Your guest should always feel like a daffodil is looking over her/his shoulder and a peony, performing on the coffee table. It is exciting to share your home with flowers.

I wonder if perhaps I am trying to somehow re-create the irregularity of the forest and field--the wild and the unkempt. I do find the subtle chaos somehow comforting, perhaps because when the books and the plates and the flowers relax, I can relax too.

1 comment:

  1. I never thought of the messy aesthetic as romantic, though you've certainly made me reconsider my attitude.

    In those rare instances where my room is immaculate, something feels off. Everything appears sterile, and I feel as though I'm in another person's room. In other words, I don't feel genuine. My thoughts, which are commonly scattered and rarely lucid, seem to be reflected in the piles of books and papers scattered about my room. The extreme, of course, is having such an awful mess that one cannot navigate his room properly, and that seems to go a little too far; the chaos at that point is a little too overwhelming.

    Your insights shed some new light on one of my favorite painters of all time, Francis Bacon. Behold his studio, as fitting for a twisted/beautiful genius. :

    - “The key to "eclecticism" is not seeking out some sort of mismatched harmony...it's in only collecting pieces that you really, really like individually, and then in putting them together.”

    Yes, I completely agree. A person's aesthetic tastes will typically cohere in some way, so seemingly eclectic elements will share something in common, even if this commonality is only recognizable by that particular individual. The “dissonance”, which is merely a product of what society deems as “consonance”, is only problematic to others.

    -Re: Candles. I love the proposed imagery. Unfortunately, I have a roommate who is extremely sensitive to smoke, so I'm limited in my candle burning (and incense is out of the question). It is a shame because I always relied upon candlelight during my all-night writing/research marathons. The way the lights dance chaotically, though the light itself is never overpowering... it's simultaneously relaxing and stimulating.