Saturday, May 3, 2014

Creating Art with Asymmetry


I am on the end stages of an art project and this may finally be the one which works after quite a few failures. Here is my dilemma: I want to make a garment that is asymmetrical, patternless, cut on the bias and with absolutely nothing squaring off or being even.  Sort of the ungarment, if you will. I've come close a few times to achieving this but I am never wholly satisfied. This diagram shows the beginning of any such project because right from the start you cut at an angle across the square grain of the fabric when almost all sewing directions call for it to be cut on grain in a square instead. Look at your own clothing and you will quickly discover that all of it is square or rectangular plus identical on each side.


Is asymmetry an unusual quest?  You might say that. The world is based on symmetry after all.  I was listening to an NPR podcast called Science and Creativity which discussed symmetry here. We are programmed to be attracted to symmetry. The most beautiful faces tend to be the most symmetrical, that is one half is almost an exact replica of the other half.


But, as one of the program guests pointed out, then you have to factor in a face like Tom Cruise's which has a tremendous amount of asymmetry in it but is also responsible for much of his success over decades.  Almost everything is off center in his face yet it works.

Here's the the attraction to asymmetry: it is not boring. It does not match but it nevertheless can work. Of course, it more easily does not work and my creative space bears proof of this, littered as it is with pieces of prior projects I've torn apart, reassembled, torn apart, put back together, ad infinitum.

But let's not get carried away.  Certain areas of the body were designed to be mostly symmetrical and when they are not, the persons afflicted with such asymmetry usually are desperate for plastic surgery assistance. For example, a woman's breasts are only pleasing in symmetry. They look defective otherwise.  However, some women are born with a congenital defect of asymmetric breasts. This picture shows plastic surgery before images of two women with the problem. Although the human body is not in perfect symmetry as there are normally small differences between two of anything. Breasts usually are slightly different. In men, the testicles are always somewhat asymmetrical so that they don't bang into one another when a male is running. But they are not different enough to catch the eye like these breasts are.




The nude human body as an art object is always symmetrical and bears a strong resemblance to a perfect piece of fruit, such as a pear. The natural selection process compels us to seek symmetry for reproduction because it is the best genetic structure for our offspring. 



Switch from the human body to architecture, however, and an asymmetrical building can take your breath away with its beauty.
Yet most of us buy structures which are symmetrical. Only a few of us live in asymmetrical structures because our built in default is to gravitate towards symmetry.







Asymmetrical haircuts can work but one better have a beautifully symmetrical face to pull it off. It is not boring so it will attract attention but the unwanted kind if it can't be made to work.






This is a pair of beautifully symmetric eyes set in a beautifully symmetric face. A makeup artist has made the eye makeup asymmetric. It is attention getting, striking, beautiful to some but weird to others. Why do it? Because fashion models coming down runways in provocative couture clothing shows need to look different. Boring is a mortal sin in this world. Asymmetry put atop perfect symmetry will compel the eye to follow it.



Cars are some of the most symmetrical entities going. For one, there have to be four wheels on its base and the weight must be evenly distributed over the entire chassis.  They thereby must always be square or rectangular and in perfect alignment. So what we think of as an asymmetric car, as the red one shown here, is much like the model's eye makeup: it is an asymmetrical design element put atop a perfectly symmetrical underlying design structure.



If you like asymmetrical furniture, you like modern furniture. The twentieth century is as far back as it goes. These are very deceptive pieces of engineering and that is why it must be modern in design. Basically, you will not sit or lay down or write or eat on something which is not balanced. Look carefully at these pieces and you will see that you will be perfectly in balance when you go to use them. Although they may have three legs instead of four or one side may bulge out or the two halves don't match, the engineering of the piece gave it underlying stability and evenly distributed the weight and the balance.  Modern materials and machinery are also needed to achieve this.


And let's return to where I am. This is an image of someone in an asymmetrical, deconstructed garment. The one I am working on is not this wild but the minute one starts messing with that square or rectangle is also the minute one plunges off into design outer space. If mine works, I will come back and post a picture here.  I have no way of knowing if it will.  I will be taking the ultimate plunge this week though when I make Jim put it on so that I can cut it into shape more as it sits on his hanger like body. Rebecca would also do as a hanger like body. They are perfect for this purpose as they are long and lean, just like a clothing hanger. Wish me luck as I'm gonna need it.

1 comment:

  1. Good luck, Carol--I can't wait to see how it turns out! btw: my dentist back in California said Tom Cruise's smile was much more interesting before he had his missing incisor "fixed" -- something about that asymmetrical smile gave him even more visual appeal and interest!

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