A Calico Aesthetic

Weekly Photo Challenge: Solitary (4) (Photo credit: Michael Lai)

I’m calling this a ‘calico photo’, not because it’s a photo of a calico cat, but because the photo itself is suffused with orange, white, and black tones. I love the black cat who looks so small but vivid on this cobblestone street in Riga, Latvia.

I’m starting to think there’s a visual ‘calico aesthetic’. I think we feel that orange, black, and white ‘go together’ because they co-occur in the coat colors of so many animals–as I show here. I think people may be drawn to this calico aesthetic in other contexts because they love it in cats and dogs–the animals with which people are most intimate.

This is kind of funny to say, but it only just dawned on me a couple of weeks ago that even one of our horses is almost a calico! She’s a buckskin Appaloosa–actually a Pony of the Americas (or POA) because she is small. But instead of orange, she has a tawny gold coat accented by a black mane and tail, and of course the white Appy spots.

It’s weird that I didn’t think of her as being a calico, because her name was Callie (short for her registered name of Calico’s Painted Dream) when we bought her. Duh! We dropped the C and called her Allie since we already had Callie the cat!

Now look at the template for this blog–it’s a WordPress theme called “Sunspot.” As soon as I saw it, I knew it was the perfect template because of the color combination! If I’m right that we’ve developed a calico aesthetic because of what we like in animals, then it’s become a schema that we both seek out and from which we create. That’s what I see at work in the photo above and in the template for this blog.

I’ll be looking for this calico aesthetic at work in other places beyond the animal world, as did Gerard Manley Hopkins, who celebrated an aesthetic of the “pied” and the “dappled” in his famous poem “Pied Beauty,” which you’ll find here: https://cattycallie.wordpress.com/pied-beauty-gerard-manley-hopkins/

If I follow Hopkins (and I do), a calico aesthetic appreciates the variegation we love in “stipple upon trout” and “couple-colour brinded cows” in places far beyond the animal. He sees it in the “landscape plotted and pieced,” and in:

“All things counter, original, spare, strange;

    Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)

        With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim . . . . “

Hopkins says that the couple-colour (or calico) aesthetic is found in the composite; the oxymoronic; and the  strange, fickle original. Be on the lookout for the visual–or poetic–‘calico aesthetic’ out there, then share it, if you will!

P.S.  Check out Michael Lai’s blog, retireediary, for many more exquisitely beautiful photos from his travels all over the world. http://retireediary.wordpress.com/