I have often wondered why people put up pictures on their walls. Especially scenery. What it is that makes them desire a bit of the outside world onto this vertical surface that signifies a boundary, a separation of the house from the very world that the picture represents?
The wall separates the house from the vagaries of climate, from the harshness of unknown elements in nature, from the adversities of a public space. Yet, a wild countryside under a stormy moon or a set of green bamboo plants against a marshy pond will decorate a living room. A sharp jagged edge of a cityscape will be hung above the bed. A vase full of nice flowers will be carefully perched above the breakfast counter. A sketch of two children holding hands and walking into the distance will be placed next to the staircase. A piece of abstract art that looks like a lighted cafe will remain perched on the wall in a dark corridor.
Pictures of people on the wall used to be very common several decades ago. They are not anymore. Perhaps that impetus to remember old times used to be enhanced by the novelty of the medium of the still photograph that came within the common person’s reach. That novelty is no more. Or perhaps the ubiquitousness of still pictures has made our interest in specific shots depicting specific moments wear off.
But as far as non-people pictures are concerned, such as landscapes, buildings, city streets and houses, I’ve often wondered why people put them up.
There is often a contrast between the real surroundings of a place and the pictures on the wall. A place surrounded by concrete buildings with hardly any view may have a picture of a forest full of trees on the wall. A deserted place in the country may have the picture of the nearest hamlet. Perhaps the contrast between the picture and its location is a constant escape from the concrete jungle in one case and the loneliness of a sparsely populated neighborhood in the other.
Yet, this cannot be true. New York City cityscapes abound on the walls of many apartments in the city. Wild scenery is common in forest lodges. This is no contrast. This is replication. These pictures bring in outside spaces into the bounds of the home or office. Are their constant presence required to remind folks that their surroundings are unique?
Then there is, of course, the question of identity of the people living in the space they decorate. A superhero, a retro ice-cream truck, a music sensation. Writing, signs, souvenirs. Exotic and exoticized objects. Not always pictures. One’s identity is reaffirmed as pictures look back at a person from the walls and also declare who they are as people to others as an extension of themselves. These wall arts loudly declare to the viewer: “I am my pictures.”
What about the dusty pictures on the walls of older houses that give the impression that the residents have moved on from whatever desire to escape or remember that had been an impetus for their existence? They remain as sad, neglected relics of times gone by. Reminders that either the household is too old or frail to care for them or too young and exuberant and heady with the present to care about the past.
Do pictures always mean something to the person who hangs them? Do people move on from whatever momentary desire makes them pick one picture against another and buy them, or frame them, or save them carefully? What happens when that moment passes? Do those pictures then mean something to them on a day-to-day basis? At what point do those pictures cease to be landscapes, or buildings, or people and become just familiar objects on the wall?
Pictures are a little bit like memories, I think. A piece of life that is still, that you can go back to from time to time, realign, tweak, refresh, decorate your daily life with. If it’s a nice memory, you remember the moment but never quite feel it like the real thing.
©bottledworder, 2013. https://bottledworder.wordpress.com
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