Thursday, February 9, 2017


Bartok Harmony, 8 x 10", mixed media
Over these past eighteen months or so, as I have been creating for the upcoming harmony exhibit, I have given a lot of thought to harmony...naturally! What exactly is harmony and what makes something harmonious? Why do certain notes work together, while other ones grate? Why are some colors yummy together and others vibrate violently against each other? Textures and pattern can hum sympathetically or jar us awake.

The bottom line, I have decided is that harmony is a completely natural phenomenon. That is the only way I can explain it. Getting to the underpinnings of what works together, you can find patterns that apply to more than one sense of perception. For example, the golden mean which is a way of determining pleasing proportions also shows up when considering intervals between pitches.  A perfect fifth has ratio of 2:3 between the sound waves, like the golden mean*. The golden mean is based on the Fibonacci sequence, which is a sequence of numbers starting with 1 and adding the previous two numbers to determine the next: e.g. 1,1,2,3,5,8,13,21,34,55,89,144... This pattern and proportion can be found all over in nature; in pinecones, nautilus shells, sunflower seed heads. Perhaps this is because of how things grow, unfurling.

So nature is the bottom line. Still, ideas about harmony have made shifts throughout human history. What seems discordant to humans can become accepted and desired later. Kay Gardner, in her book Sounding the Inner Landscape, speaks of intervals (and mode nomenclature!) that dance dangerously close to the divine, according to the earlier church. Now, our attitudes and ears are more open to the experience. Even with our relative openness now, we still find comfort in the fundamental harmonies that exist in nature.

Throughout my time of exploration, I have sensed the broadness of harmony. I have tuned into composers and artists and picked up on their individual harmonic sensibilities. Landscapes have sung in harmony. I have discovered that musical modes can align with energy centers of the body in interesting harmonies. When I asked Mary Louise Dean to join me in creating for this exhibit, she asked me what I meant by harmony. I had not thought so much about a definition, but I said it is about relationships. That definition is perhaps still the best.

Mary Louise Dean, Koi Pond, 36 x 36", oil on canvas
An interesting thing happened when Mary Louise showed me her work for the exhibit. Besides being thrilled by the visual delight before me, I immediately began to make pairings of our work. We were working in harmony without even knowing it!

Kathy Rees Johnson, In the Night Garden
12 x 12", mixed media

Paintings by Mary Louise Dean
and Kathy Rees Johnson
MS Rezny Studio/Gallery
903 Manchester Street
28 February - 31 March 2017

* Gardner, Kay. Sounding the Inner Landscape. Element Books, Inc. Rockport, MA, 1997.

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