Sunday, March 05, 2006

The Case for Jigsaw Pieces

About the puzzle pieces…

When I was little, I looked at things with my telescopic eye. My Telescopic Eye could shut out everything except the one thing I looked at, so that nothing else even existed.

It wasn’t all that hard really, because I didn’t know very much, and nearly everything was new and without context.

My Telescopic Eye is gone now. I know too much. Now things have histories and purposes and meanings.

But when you’re four, and looking through your Telescopic Eye, you can pretty much be the thing you’re looking at. Even if it’s a color. Have you ever been Blue? I remember that I could be, but not at all what it felt like.

Here is the smooth roundness of the picture side of the jigsaw shape, the light catching its shiny surface. There is the sharp gray edge underneath, with just a wisp of paper, no more than dust, caught and torn by the blade that shaped it.

I peer at this snippet of line and color, rotating the piece horizontally, vertically. I'm viewing a magnified detail from a painting or photograph, shown much smaller on the box, effectively hiding the truth of the detail in the lie of its whole. Or vise versa, if you like.
Or better, the image or the box is missing, opening universes of possibilities without names.

So then, what am I looking at? The tip of a petal? The point of a whisker? A stripe across the sky? A road on a map?

The image is one thing, taken as part of some whole. On its own it’s entirely another, with no particular meaning attached except one made up on the spot.

I saw a number of things back then, with my telescopic eye, playing on the cool, smooth wood floor under my grandmother’s huge bed.

Jigsaw puzzles are among them. They are sometimes parts of an unknown whole. They are often pieces of a known whole. They sometimes represent dimensions they don’t own. Their shapes are usually both male and female.

Jigsaw pieces are rife with metaphor, or just meaningless funny shapes. They are paper, which is always made from other things, mostly from things that were once alive.

They are cut out by strange, sharp, noisy and dangerous machines.

I like the way they look, strewn like leaves, or lined up like soldiers.

So, that’s why jigsaw puzzle case you ever wondered.


Anonymous said...

That's an interesting story...Jason

Derek Ash said...

One of the finest keys to being an artist is that ability to take comon objects and turn them over first in your hands, examining the fine details as well as the mundane ones... and then turn it over in your mind, examining the meanings of all those observations.

Why puzzle pieces? was a question that had never occured to me to ask... but I am really glad you answered it any way.

K said...

Looking at that piece, another question occurs to me: why buttons?

I've always found buttons (especially large ones) vaguely and inexplicably repulsive, and the thought of their being in food is turning my stomach more than I'd like to admit. Call me a button-phobic if you want...

But seriously - that was very interesting. And as I have AS, I know what it's like to be able to get lost in the detail (which can be magical, or a bit of a problem in daily life!)

Carl V. Anderson said...

Thanks for the enlightenment on the puzzle pieces. I have enjoyed them in your work because they are mysterious and have multiple layers of meaning.

Love the puppet looking skyward as he stands in the midst of life soup. Are the objects in the bowl embedded in a liquid medium that hardened or are the objects cut and placed in such a way that they just give the illusion of depth to the bowl? Either way its great.