February 7, 2010

Pink Triangles

Pink Triangles, 12 x 12 inches, hand-dyed wool on linen

While working on and finishing Pink Triangles, there were two surprises. The first was a technical glitch: because of the direction of the hooking, with the central black shape being made up of parallel diagonal lines, the ruglet became a parallelogram instead of the square it was meant to be. When I had finished the edging, I did a bit of tugging on the two black corners, pulling them apart so as to stretch the shape into something that more resembled a square. The pushing out of the pink shapes was especially pronounced in the larger of the two triangles. I had originally planned to have that triangle on the bottom right, as shown below, but found that the balance of the piece now worked much better with it at top left: because we read from left to right, our eye also scans an artwork from upper left to lower right, giving that lower corner more visual weight, so the smaller triangle had enough weight for that corner, the larger one too much.

The other surprise this piece brought was in the content that I hadn't realized was part of the image. Because I was thinking primarily formally––about color and shape––in designing this piece, I was completely blind to the meaning of the pink triangle in history, having to be reminded of it by a friend: a pink triangle, point facing downwards, was the badge that homosexuals in the German concentration camps had to wear. Turned with the point up, it became a symbol for gay rights in the 1970s. So, where I was thinking of a feminist twist on abstraction, someone else could see a totally different history and meaning. This is a very vivid lesson in the impossibility of controlling the meaning of our work; the fluidity of ideas and understanding from one viewer to the next (for each person brings their own experiences to their looking) enriches every piece of art.


  1. I do like the wonky shape of this. and it's fascinating how differently it reads depending on how it's turned. the lower one has a stillness, the top one the action of a squeeze box. yes, no accounting for how something will be read by others.

  2. Interesting point you make Altoon. The reading of a work is so entirely arbitrary.
    In my 30's I was rather obsessed with meanings and read as widely as possible at that time - from Jung to Mythology, poets to novelists. This post reminded me how much I have pulled back from that concerted focus on meanings and symbolism and such - without quite recognising this change.
    Its not that I have thrown out that appreciation for symbolic thinking but I perhaps come at it a whole lot less intellectually and analytically now - or like to give value to other ways of looking.
    We all find unique and particular meanings as you say. ..its interesting to see how meanings can shift too I must say!
    I very much like this rug... the colour and composition really works Altoon.

  3. rappel, how interesting: I hadn't noticed how the large pink triangle pushes down and makes that "squeeze box" action. I'd seen the lower image as more active in its bulge rightward.

    and Sophie, I too have moved away from heavy meaning in my work––my paintings had been full of landscape vs technology kinds of issues––and feel more free making paintings that are more about abstract form. But it's always a gift when viewers bring their own reading to the work and see something new or different in it.