Such excitement. Our building invested several thousand dollars in buried electrical service to our front flower beds to illuminate Rudolph’s nose. Just about.
Last year before we could don even our less-than-gay Advent apparel, a pair (buck and doe judging from the antler distribution) of those ubiquitous white wire reindeer sculptures, replete with yards of intertwined tiny white lightbulbs, showed up in our communal living room. They were destined for our front flower beds once the holiday decorating reached full impetus. And that’s where they were eventually “planted.” But the illumination required dangerous extension cords over our sidewalks outside the front door. Hence the new underground conduit to the flower beds.
Holiday decorations really do impose tensions in the important arenas of beauty and art. And the tensions span more than the recent years of overstocked Costco and Walmart wholesale or retail tackiness. Think overfed infants in the Renaissance manger scenes, or that humongous and too erect lily in Gabriel’s lap from Federico Borocci’s “Annunciation.” And heaven help you in a conversation if you’ve ever had to study and appreciate composition, line, texture and light. Uh, what? At least the Italian masters had those elements in play even if they were a little too nutritious with the baby savior.
Perhaps the common denominator in what passes for beauty as we decorate is precisely its communality: it’s boring. It’s too easy in its clamor for acceptance by the drive-by or stagger- by viewers. If anything, ‘tis the season for the new. Ain’t that the magic in what the shepherds heard, and when —finally, after a sleepless night—“out on the rooftop there arose such a clatter”?
Or must decoration be banal? Is it condemned to be mute beyond minimal effort to fill up a space? Can it not scream about the new, the different, the unexpected, not to mention the beautiful? Since there is, after all, a science of optics and optometry, does the aphoristic “beholder’s eye” have to be a loaner? Can’t it be gently, maybe pedagogically led to an agreement about the power of such things as dramatic line and composition? And won’t subsequent beholders be thankful for new gifts, maybe even new insights?
Back to Barocci and this time his “Rest on Return from Flight to Egypt.” (Okay. I recently got to see these not-so-celebrated works on exhibit in St. Louis.) In this painting you can almost forget the mother and child because Joseph is so animated in his own attention to them. So fresh and human it’s enough to make you wonder if there isn’t something divine going on here.
And back to those plastic-coated wire reindeer in our front flower patches. Sure enough. It only took one Saturday night’s group of homeward-from-bar bound college kids to render reindeer drama in the display. There for all the Sunday churchgoers to enjoy was Rudolph mounting Rosie. (Hey! That was brand new even for the Brady-Farwell neighborhood.)—Now I’m worried about that turkey and Pilgrim who are sure to turn up soon. Will they be wired? Surely we won’t let the new wiring in the flower beds idle through Thanksgiving.