For many years now I have been drafting segments of a memoir which I call “Outside the Frame”.  The title comes from a little ditty, or maybe doggerel, which I seem to have written at a time I now don’t recall. In it I was trying to express my sense of never quite being there, never quite making it, never being fully included, never fully falling inside some hallowed zone where others found re-assurance and acceptance.

And I was interested in the idea of framing in art. The frame creates the picture, cuts it off from its continuity with the wall, with the room, with the space enclosing the room, and thus with the world outside the wall. It’s part of what Siri Hustvedt calls the Mystery of the Rectangle. The rectangle, the frame, encloses the image and makes it secure in two dimensions. It can’t leave, we can’t claim it. There it is for ever, unless it is erased. But for me I could never fully inhabit the frame. I imagine myself looking at the viewer from across a transverse edge, sliding in or perhaps it’s really out of the viewing space. I can’t seem to get fully inside that frame, or maybe I just can’t stay there.

The artist might put you there, but if he chooses he can remove you. The idea of the Great Illustrator is poignant and scary.

Spangled Ann

Was an also-ran

In the great cartoon of life.

Always a little outside the frame

She stayed in the picture just the same

Till the Great Illustrator

Drew his eraser

And coolly rubbed her out.

I supposed I might be no more than an illustration, a product of someone else’s concept, someone else’s idea, an idea which has its own existence and has mobilised me as its exemplar.

There is something truly strange about the illustration below. The attribution of will or intention to ideas makes a weird sense today in the light of the memetic world replete with interpretation …. of what though? Do ideas really care?

Illustrator Good Idea
“A Good Idea …”  Unknown illustrator for the 1949 Toronto AD annual.

So far I’ve finished two volumes, and have no idea how many others there will be. Check the descriptions on the sub-tabs but don’t take any of it too seriously.

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