Invisible Accidents

“The accident reveals something important we would not otherwise know how to perceive.”

-Paul Virillo, “The Accident of Art”-

This polaroid emulsion transfer above (on the right) began as the polaroid image transfer of a 35mm slide of a small painting I did of a fish hook( on the left).

Huh? Say, what? Yeah, I know. Descriptions of the creative process can squeeze every ounce of good will out of your body. This post is not about THAT. Well, it is, actually–I lied. But, it is also about a more universal struggle to recognize the value of accidents happening in our individual lives.

If you are faint of heart about details of this particular photographic venture, do not read on.

Simply put here’s what I started out to do: say a simple thank you to someone who had given me a complicated but unique gift .

Pretty soon my simple thank you, a painting of a fish hook (he loves to fish) decided it needed to be a polaroid transfer to add depth, texture and time to the painting. I’m not a good enough painter to add all that on my own. And, then, after that was achieved, (image on left) it decided, Oh, hell, go for it: make an emulsion transfer on to a piece of wood just because it seems like it would add another dimension of permanence.

This totally flopped. I mean totally. I had to rescue the delicate emulsion from the water (think trying to handle a dollop of mercury) and at the last minute slid a 5 X7 piece of white watercolor paper underneath it and tipped it back and forth submerged in water to make sure the fragile emulsion was on the paper. (image on right).

When I saw how it fell on the paper, I had to sit down.

The thank you that was about a fish hook accidentally became an image of a woman cloaked and veiled. (That’s what I see–you might see something else)

What was his gift to me that I wanted to thank him for?

Helping me become more visible in the world.

Yikes, people. You don’t get these accidents at Hallmark. But, they happen in life all the time and are not restricted to photography/art thank you gifts.

The trick is to see the “accident” that happens to us, the “flawed” result for what it is: valuable. The guy who created “post-its” (they were a “failed” experiment to make something that stuck permanently) knows this every time he goes to the bank.

As I say to all my 3-8 year old friends, the true artists of the world: Know what I mean, jelly bean?

©2008 Pat Coakley


3 comments on “Invisible Accidents”

  1. Wow what a beautiful post and how true! Accidents often turn out better than the intended – both of the above paintings are excellent be they accidents or not, I love the symbology. True art for me is always accidental, like the asphalt or a broken branch, I have an abstract eye – it is the one thing I love the most about myself, keeps life interesting, all my art is pure accidental lol.

    Great post :)

  2. These aren’t accidents, they are simply alternate takes of our intended reality. Beautiful work, and timely reminder.


  3. I think it is extremely interesting that you were able to see and interpret this art out of what would otherwise not be something happy or pleasant.

    Art is subjective….. it has to make us feel in order to be good.

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