Francis Bacon wrote: “There is no excellent beauty that hath not some strangeness in the proportion.” Just recently, by one of those common coincidences, I’ve seen this idea compellingly expressed in different contexts, though both related to art. One is the passage below from a Laurie Fendrich interview, which I had occasion to quote in a comment elsewhere.

The beauty in abstraction comes when abstract painters create marks, shapes, forms, and colors that tap into unseen but universal, psychologically beautiful forms and shapes. The marks and colors, since they range so widely in painting, bring to abstract paintings the poignancy of the individuality of each human being. I said I’m almost a complete Platonist, but I’m not a complete Platonist. I think deviation, or falling away from perfect form, is what makes something profoundly beautiful. Perfect beauty is different from profound beauty; the latter is always partly tragic and has something wrong with it, always, and without exception. The “something wrong” part is the handedness, or the individual way a painter paints, which points to the fleetingness of our lives. But it’s really simpler—beauty either is or isn’t, once a painting is done. If it knocks the socks off someone who sees it, and that someone is a deep and sensitive person, that’s the test. Period.

And then I was reading Adam Gopnik’s article on magic in the March 17 New Yorker, in which he discusses magicians’ Too Perfect theory, according to which a trick works best on the audience if it is not too well done.

What makes a trick work is not the inherent astoundingness of its effect but the magician’s ability to suggest any number of possible explanations, none of them conclusive, and none of them quite obvious. … magic works best when the illusions it creates are open-ended enough to invite the viewer into a credibly imperfect world.


And leaving you with that food for thought, I’m off to a another world myself, one into which I hope to invite you later. When this appears I’ll be somewhere on the Colorado Plateau, trying to make not quite perfect photographs of ancient ruins.