When life imitates art (or, the imperfection of perfection)

I walked into my office in the Grohmann Museum on MSOE’s campus the other day and really liked the golden autumn glow of light reflecting from the locust tree outside my window. Especially appealing was the correspondence between the dead leaves of this student artwork (a dead birch tree branch, wrapped in copper wire, then “planted” in a pot) and the dying leaves just beyond.

Whenever I’m going about my daily life and see something arresting, I routinely take a picture with my phone.

Original photo

This time, as I looked at the image I’d just captured, I was less than enchanted. Hmm, a little crooked. But no worries. I could just use my phone’s editing features to straighten it up so. But that edited version was less than satisfying.

potted branch with dead autumn leaves on windowsill
Edited version

Was it possible that the less-perfect original was better?


I decided to get my daughter’s opinion. After examining both versions, right next to each other in my camera roll, she also selected the original, unedited photograph.

Isn’t it funny how sometimes the more we try to fix something the less we like it in the end? The first photo captured whatever “magic” I saw. When I tried making slight repairs to touch up its imperfections, I was left with something that was nicer but was no longer as compelling (to me, at least).

Songwriter Leonard Cohen said it beautifully in “Anthem”:

Ring the bells that still can ring

Forget your perfect offering.

There is a crack in everything

That’s how the light gets in

About Katherine Wikoff

I am a college professor at Milwaukee School of Engineering, where I teach literature, film studies, political science, and communication. I also volunteer with a Milwaukee homeless sanctuary, Repairers of the Breach, as chair of the Communications and Fund Development Committee.
This entry was posted in Art, Creativity, Life, Photography and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to When life imitates art (or, the imperfection of perfection)

  1. It’s probably just my desire for symmetry, but I do like the edited version better. You know how math minds are. lol

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wyrd Smythe says:

    Put me down for the original. I like the rakish angle of the lines, and the edited version has something of an optical illusion thing going on in the lower left. It’s hard to tell of the dark band below the sunlight part is the edge of the table or the top unlit. As the eye moves to the right, it’s obviously the top, but there’s a brief mental confusion until the eye resolves it. In the original, it’s obviously the table top.

    But mostly I like the rakish angle. 😁

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Sally Cissna says:

    I like the original where the light shines in with geometric shapes and precision. The wire adding chaos. But it’s the song that got me. Forget perfection. There is a crack in every bowl and a mistake in every syllabus. Blessed Be.

    Liked by 2 people

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