Beautiful Messes

Written By: Gretchen J.  Fischer

Everything is beautiful but not everyone can see it.


Excuse the mess. We live here.



Making the familiar drive down Springs Fireplace Road, passing the Pollock-Krasner house, I make my annual comment to the car full of family, hoping maybe someone is half listening, or better yet, half interested. “There’s Jackson Pollock’s studio – you know, we should really do that splatter art workshop they have for families this summer.”


Maybe it was the Dunkin’ Donuts munchkins or the solid nap on the ferry, but this time I get a response. “What’s splatter art?” – says my 4 year old, making rare eye contact via the rear view mirror.


You get what you ask for sometimes. Here I am, in a moment poised for sparking a love of contemporary art while simultaneously teaching the value of artistic expression as a vehicle for venting emotions one cannot put into words. Reflecting on my son’s exposure to art thus far, I picture his own creations from preschool: swirls of paint, mixing into an unidentifiable color possibly called ‘grey brown’ or more Crayola-esque, ‘wet cement mixed with a bit of topsoil’. I picture the handprint painting for Mother’s Day – or rather, the smear of yellow mustard in a Popsicle stick frame with the date printed neatly on the back by the teacher. Kind of messy, one might say, or maybe “primitive art” at best.


Pulling into the driveway on Sycamore Road, still without an apt response, I turn to look him in the eye – directly this time. And I see that he sits amidst a mosaic of edible mediums: crushed Cheerio’s; Munchkin crumbs; drips and drabbles of apple juice; and inexplicably, sand (we haven’t even stepped on the beach yet this year). A classic Road Trip Mess, I think, and deliver a sigh.


Still waiting for his answer, I see him turn to watch my sister emerge from the house, manically waving and squealing in delight like a kindred preschooler, though she’s 46 years old. My son’s face alights, quickly forgetting our deep discussion of art interpretation, and bounces out of his installation exhibit. Unlike me, he is free to love her without awareness of her faults: self-absorption (though negative most of the time); dependent – on people as much as drugs; and unwilling to help herself most of the time. She’s still a mess, I think, surprising myself that I would expect otherwise.


On the shore that afternoon, we build the First Sand Castle of the Summer. I show my son how to make “dribbles”, using sand in a bucket of water. As we form our castle spires from the funneled tips of our fingers, he says, “This is messy!” – but with delight, not disappointment. A stranger walks by and comments on the beauty of our creation, and my son beams, proud of his work. One day, I think, we might be ready to enter the East Hampton Sand Castle contest – at least in the Sand Fleas division.


Back at the house on Sycamore Road, there is a coffee table book of contemporary artists. Remembering the Splatter Art Question, I flip through to find some works by Mr. Pollock, and finding one, I see it again: why I love this art, why I love this artist.


It is pure emotion in motion. The Id without Ego. Freedom, fury, joy, passion, activity, liberation. Lack of judgment. Layers of chaos. A purging of the soul. A relief that leaves the host lighter but sometimes burdens the guest.


Like my post-road trip car.

Like my sister.

Like our castle.


And I tell him it’s all a beautiful mess.