In Spanish, the word for “desperate” is “desesperado”—literally de-hoped. It’s an interesting piece of etymology, since the English “desperate” often connotes frenzied activity: a desperate search, a desperate plea, the wandering trouble that is the desperado. Our actions—our desperate attempts, if you will—tend to reach their peak when hope is gone. That is the moment when action itself feels like it should be enough, when what we’re trying to accomplish fades into the experience of doing something. Today is Friday, and despair is a spectrum with pure action at one end and pure efficacy at the other. Won’t you slide along with me?
Students in introductory painting classes are typically instructed not to use black, as it flattens the composition. Browns, blues and heavily darkened versions of any other color create depth through shading, but the eye sees black as nothing, and nothing is a plane. Absence, by definition, is the absence of dimension. It’s satisfying to know that art schools will continue to produce versatile metaphors long after they’ve stopped producing artists, but this particular truism of painting has lived through the invention of its own counterexample in the black and white photograph.