living in contradictions (on purpose)

Torn poster 2 - Hullphoto by GillFordPhotography – click image for more

Contradictions. We are full of them.

In our life, in our work, in the choices we make. And hopefully, in our art.

Why contradictions?

Because they make the work interesting. Perfection is not interesing. It may please for a moment, but it will not captivate. What captivates is the subtle disharmony of forces rubbing together.

Do not weed out the contradictions in your work. Let them be. See them, let them breathe, appreciate them.

Don’t see any contradictions in your work? Then experiment. How can you create a little tension? Get messy, get it wrong, push it too far and then back it up.

You will find the limit of what works for you once you’ve passed over it.

Living in contradictions can be a little scary. We’re taught to be consistent, be polite, and get it right. But there is much more beauty and honesty at the edges and in the blurred moments.

Loud and proud, it’s time to celebrate your contradictions.

15 thoughts on “living in contradictions (on purpose)

  1. Good topic! I couldn’t agree more Laura. It was when I embraced the contradiction, paradox, polarities in life that my work truly became my own. I think my best work always hints at the opposite of what I am portraying obviously. Thanks

  2. I relate to this post from title to end. In my work, in my life’s entirety.

    I think living without contradictions leaves one boxed in. There is always room for a contradiction. We should embrace the new light that shines on our opinions especially. There is something special in what we thought we knew merging into something else. It doesn’t mean that what we once thought or said was wrong, it just means we are growing, changing, and being open to life as we should be. I also believe this is where tolerance is born. Unlearning, learning, and going with it.

    Thanks for this post Tara. Makes me feel a little more common…which isn’t always a bad thing. :)

  3. I’m a collage artist at heart, and very often I’m asked “what’s this one about?”. Sometimes I have to stare at the piece for a long time before I can answer because there are so many different things happening there. I don’t usually work with one theme in mind, so there are lots of ‘contradictions’ in a single collage. What’s even more interesting, though, is to see how seemingly unrelated items find meaning within the larger picture, making each piece greater than the sum of its parts.

    I’m sure there’s a life-metaphor in there somewhere. :3

    1. Ellie, I’ve experienced this working as a performing artist. A mentor once told me not to worry about making it “about” something; all the disparate pieces that come together are connected but virtue of the fact that my brain saw fit to put them together. You can “about” beautiful things to their death.

      1. I was just thinking of a similar struggle in my paintings. When I’m just going with the flow there is little thought to the answer of ‘what’s this one about’
        when I try to purposely carve out an ending before allowing the process to happen, I miss out on the magic of the different, seemingly random elements coming together like they do when I free myself for that.
        So I guess the contradiction is the letting go of making it ‘about’ something yet, knowing that in the end, all the little dots will join up once (as was said so eloquently) ‘you’ve passed over it’ and it will BE about something.

        does that make sense? :)

  4. perfect! (in all its contradictions)… great piece Laura… getting comfy with our “ugly” with out “messes” and with our inconsistencies gets us so much further towards who we are and what is truly happening with our art. Thanks for the reminder!

  5. I’ve recently realized that how I approach my business is one giant contradiction. On one hand, I’m a very meticulous planner and like to know what is ahead for me. But on the other, I’m at my happiest when I’m doing things off the cuff, not planned at all. I’m trying to figure out the right balance between these two and to put to work the good points of each side while remaining true to myself and my business.

  6. Yes! So much of culture—from work to social media to lifestyle—begs us to be consistent, even stereotypical. We’re supposed to choose a persona and then neatly package it up for easy consumption.

    A few years back as I was creating my blog and Twitter bio, I quickly realized a neat package was not an option for me (and I’m so glad I realized it early on, rather than wasting time trying to choose a single, one-dimensional path).

  7. Contradictions provide contrast & depth, without them a work would be flat & dull. Thank you for reminding us to embrace the contradictions that are so necessary to make our work interesting!

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