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Dodson Road South Tank Farm – Dodson South Road – Grant County, WA

Purpose expectation often drives how we perceive and evaluate the objects that fill up our lives.

For example, I find that I immediately accept public sculptures as art and once that threshold is reached I then judge them from a refined aesthetic point of view.

In the case of abstract sculptures this often rises to the level of such commentary as “wow, that is butt ugly.” For statues of public figures I often find that I drop all pretext of aesthetic judgement and go right to things like “why on earth did we erect a statue to him? He was nothing but a friggin’ pompous crook.”

For the most part I cease to consider if these sculptures have functional aspects, and if they do, how well they work. Pigeons, on the other hand, are keen judges of the functional aspects of public art and are well-known to heap layer upon layer of commentary on the statues for all to see. What is not clear to me is if these evaluations are positive or negative in nature.

For more personal objects, such as cars, jewelry, or iPhones (these I view as being a modern version of the fire water traders used to destroy the locals in the 19th century), we have a much more balanced sensibilities between the aesthetic and functional.

I find jewelry a fascinating example of these judgement axes. A quick route to understanding how valuable jewelry’s aesthetics are to people is to visit a great museum and have one’s breath taken by an object’s beauty that is several thousand years old. In that beauty I see some universal human traits such as a desire to establish social status through public displays of wealth and exclusivity. I also see a universal trait of men to behave badly and then be willing to do just about anything to get out of the doghouse.

Industrial places or equipment are primarily evaluated along the functional axis only with the aesthetics being defined in a withered dimension; they are valuable only as long as they produce the materials we use to create the aesthetic places and objects in our lives.

An open-pit mine is a giant hole in the ground except when you spent your life working in them. In that latter situation a person, who has spent big portion of his or her’s life (mostly his’ are found here) down in them has seen those moments when the light transforms the cut earth into striations of reveled color. The rest of us pretty much go, “Yuck, its looks like a muddy mess. Let’s go have lunch at that place by the statues in the park and later we can go shopping for some jewelry. That sounds like fun, doesn’t it dear?”

Copyright 2012 By Katherine Johnson – All Rights Reserved