I have a favorite painting at the National Gallery of Art, a dear old favorite friend of a painting. Me and this painting go back years! It’s Vermeer’s Girl with a Flute. The tapestry in the background, in particular, amazes me. The background alone contains some of the most astonishing bits of painting that I’ve ever seen. In the softly articulated, indistinct shapes of the fabric behind the girl, you find much of the painting’s music. Its flute notes are all piped in blending, meandering riverlets of color and tone. They are so out-of-focus as to be completely unrecognizable, yet they are persuasively, pervasively “real.” Whenever I see the painting I’m reminded that all of life is like this one scene. The world is luminous and mysterious, indefinite and mutable, meaningful and inscrutable.
And in something like this spirit of inscrutability I enter my garden of crepe myrtles. I don’t of course own the garden. I own the scribbles that establish the garden of my pencil. Though I have to follow the park rules about when I can visit my trees, with my pencil they transform into personal, imaginative property. I wander through them like the lady of the manor. And I abstract them with all the freedom that Vermeer taught me to feel before nature.
My pencil lines are thoughts about form. I say that the tree boughs shall grow to such height! I will that the greens be bright! I indulge all my whim for foliage and fond. If I want significant swaths of bright white paper peeking through, so be it! It’s my dream, my vague and transcendent fabric!