Andrew Hertzberg — Frames

[Whenever I go to an art museum or gallery, I make certain to pay attention to the frames of every painting. I examine the frames with as much scrutiny as I do the brush strokes in the painting itself. This wasn’t always my habit. In my more ignorant days, I unwittingly shunned the frames of famous paintings. I never considered the intricate patterns of the decorated Renaissance frames, or the beauty in the simplicity of the framework of the Impressionists, or the implication of a frame-less work that became more common with the modern masters. No, in those days, my view of art, and of the world around me as well, could best be defined as narrow. Which isn’t to say my views then and now are drastically different. In fact, I’m certain I am much the same person in both my pre- and post-frame-appreciation era.


Like many important shifts that occur in our lives, I was unwitting in my transition to frame-appreciation. It started with art, as I’ve been going on about. The Renaissance paintings caught my eye at first. Such exquisite detail that perfectly matched the beauty of the masterworks themselves. But the illusion of a negative frame in modern art, that which is just the edge of the canvas, is what I found most intriguing. I struggle with grasping this negative frame concept when staring at a Rothko or Pollack. Because to me, a frame is like the skin on our body. What we typically think of as our identity ends at the skin. But modern art shows us that this frame is an illusion. And that can be interpreted in two ways.


The first, more depressing way, is to say that our identities don’t exist at all. That our skin is no frame, for it is the painting of our bodies as well. And without frames, what is there to be defined? How can my ‘self’ be defined?


On the other hand, the more optimistic perspective, perhaps our identities don’t have to end where the sense of touch leaves us. Because the illusion is that our identities are encapsulated in our perceptions, perspective, thoughts, health, and appearance. But we are more than these things, just by the very nature of existing in the world, by interpreting the world around us, and being interpreted.


Frames matter in literature too. Naturally, the frame of a page dictates the amount of words that can fit on it and the resulting amount of pages added together defines a book as a whole. But in a story itself, perspective can be considered a frame. I believe that and you probably do too.][He was convinced frames shape the story and the strength of his conviction was founded in modern art. But he didn’t realize that he was actually in a third-person story the whole time. He appeared to be in the first with his excessive use of “I,” but really all it was, was the clumsy and amateur author forgot to put in quotation marks. What he wanted to present to his audience as his own personal thoughts was actually a lengthy monologue, intended to be said aloud. It actually goes back much further than the phrase “Whenever I go to an art museum or gallery, I make certain to pay attention to the frame of every painting.” But I wanted to make you believe that his story began there and will end when I say it does. Because he was wrong the whole time. He didn’t realize boundaries are necessarily tied down to identity and meaning. He called it depressing and I call it reality.][And I call it irrelevant.][And I call it a diversion tactic.][And I call it boring.][And I call it confusing.][And I say “Enough!”][And I say “Never!”][And I say an unbound painting is chaos.][And I say there’s no such thing as a painting without end.][And I say the frame is there to hide the real edge; the frame is a veneer.][And I say that this is madness.][And I say, as the fourteenth-person perspective allows me to, that we all must accept our place in infinity.][And I say you wouldn’t say that if I didn’t let you say that.][And I say meta-fiction is a played-out, lazy, last resort screwdriver in the post-modern toolbox.][And I say there’s no way the sixteenth-person point of view gets the last word.][But what do you say about the eighteenth-person perspective?][I guess I could allow that.]


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Andrew Hertzberg is a Chicago-based writer. His work has appeared or is forthcoming on Belt, Jelly Legs, Chicago Literati, Third Coast Review, and other obscure corners of the Internet.He tweets at @and_hertz.