Friday, December 22, 2006

Happy B-Day First Lady Lady

It's Friday morning, Dec. 22, 2006. Today happens to be the 94th birthday of Claudia Taylor "Lady Bird" Johnson, and yes, she is still alive.

Surely, she must be the only person still left living in this ultra-famous photograph.

Of course I don't know that to be a fact. This photo has always fascinated me. Physically, the composition is wonderful. Look at the way that it fans out both chromatically and structurally from the lower left corner beginning with the 3/4 face and upper shoulder stance of the fellow squeezed into the space to the starkly contrasted figures of the fellow in the tuxedo and Lady Bird all centering around Johnson's raised hand. His hand forms the visual center of the work and it helps to create this amazing triangle that is so compostionally well structred that you can almost see the lines of the shape. Starting with LBJ's head and upraised hand, follow the visual line that moves from there across Lady Bird's head to the head of the man in the tux (the eye will naturally move this way across the image). Then follow the gaze of the man in the tux (who's head demarks the far end of the triangle) to the form of Federal Judge Sarah T. Hughes of the Northern District of Texas (we can only see the back of her head and the polka dots of her top). The line then moves from her head down to LBJ's other hand (which is resting on the bible) and then up his forearm to his elbow where it almost perfectly matches and meets the collar of Jackie's suit, thus completing the triangle. I find that triangular composition is very important in the creation of strong work regardless of what you're creating visually. I use it constantly in my work, even in the close cropped large scale faces that I paint. It can be made just as easily with shades of color and light as it can be with actually physical composition of subjects. This is true even in abstract and sculptural work. The human eye loves the triangle. The next time that you are looking at a well made work of art, or are creating your own, look for the triangles in the composition. It will enlighten you and change the way you think about composing your work.

What I also find fascinating about this image is that it was, as far as I know and have read, a complete case of right place right time. Tragic yes, but visualy stunning.

The expressions are also wonderfully captured. Jackie is still wearing the blood stained pink suit that she had been wearing when JFK was murdered. "Let them see what they have done" she was quoted as having said after suggestions that she change outfits. Of course, this all occurred before I was born, though I still find it fascinating. And Lady Bird is still alive and celebrating her 94th. Fabulous.

And speaking of that which is fascinating and of Jackie O, the documentary Grey Gardens will simply knock you on your ass. It will haunt you with a combination of comedy, tragedy, and poignancy for many years to come.

I have already watched it 3 times and will probably do so again as it seems different each time I view it. It is utterly fascinating and now I must do all that I can to become a STAUNCH character as well.

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