Do you find beauty in incongruity or in similitude?


I receive hundreds of submissions every year (perhaps the number even tops 1000? There are a lot of them—some from my open calls, others unsolicited). And I'm grateful for each and every one of them! I try to put as many as I can in print, but often there are more ideas than number of pages. And since the magazine is quarterly, it can take a long time for a very good submission to find its way into print.

I want to share more of these submissions—folks have put talent and effort into them and they deserve to be read and appreciated. I'm going to post more of them in my newsletters and here on the blog, and though it might not be as thematic and ordered as in context of a print magazine, there's beauty in the random surprise.

Let's start with Clare Dean, who submitted the piece below as part of the Open Pitch a couple of months ago. Clare offers us (me!) perspective on letting things be a bit more uncontrolled and organic.

Do you find beauty in incongruity or in similitude?

by Clare Dean



Over the past few years, in addition to being a publishing consultant and mother of small chatty boys, I have worked as an artist, illustrator and pattern designer. As my style has developed, like many others I have given a lot of thought to my point of view. Do I have one? What are my convictions? What I am trying to say? Initially, I created work that I hoped would merely ‘delight’, but it soon became obvious to me that there was a lot of ‘delightful’ work out there that pursued a similar theme. What was I trying to ‘say’, if anything at all? As a philosophical theology graduate, and the wife of a philosopher, it seems that I am attracted to thought and meaning. 


A couple of summers ago, I attended a modern dance performance/dramatic piece in Boston. The overall perspective they communicated could be reduced down to the idea that everyone and everything is the same – that we exist, and others and other things exist, and there is comfort and complicity in our similitude. I thought about it, and realized that I believe and find comfort in the opposite – that everything is various and different, and that beauty can be found in complexity. In pursuing this idea further, I realized that a common trait in my work is an almost random incongruous assemblage of things and beings. 

I delight in mismatching and juxtaposing images to partly highlight the absurdity of the assemblage of things, but also to celebrate the richness in life. Why not, for example, place a poodle on a vintage 1970’s footstool, or a parrot flapping around an antique rocking horse? To me, the combination of these items painted to highlight their beauty celebrates them as individual objects and beings, while saying ‘look how strange – we live in a world where someone shaves a poodle’s fur into funny balls, and also makes and owns a swirly patterned stool on which to rest your feet. Ultimately, the fact that I am drawn to capturing the incongruity is all the more absurd.

Visit Clare's portfolio.