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Botanical Rain: the enduring Endico image



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Updated August 08, 2017 | By Bob Fugett ©2017

Location, Location ... Logic

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Botanical Rain - Mary Endico ©1979
(9" x 10" original watercolor)

"I know that place!"

For more than 40 years in the museum room of the Endico watercolor studio, visitors often gasp in recognition on seeing the Botanical Rain watercolor for the first time in person.

It makes you wonder: why such an enduringly strong response for this perennial favorite?

One easy answer might be that people familiar with the New York Botanical Garden know the location of the little bus stop very well, so the painting evokes an immediate visceral response by spring boarding off an absolutely certain personal recognition.

Except, though many viewers do attest to knowing the spot, the painting is far from being a quickly identifiable exact representation.

Not to mention, the strength of response is generally greater than simple recognition would arouse.

Of course, not everybody knows the Garden, so maybe those who do not know the place itself are surprised to see the original of a painting they have already seen on the cover of magazines, and finding it in such an out of the way studio.

Once again, magazine covers are unlikely to be the full answer because the astonished gasps were in full bloom decades before the covers.

Another quick but partial answer would be that browsers are merely feeling akin to being caught in the rain, like the hurried little watercolor figures, but (as with the previous examples) the strength of response is consistently too powerful to stem from that alone.

So we have a quandary with numerous possible solutions, none of which could result so consistently in responses so strong.

Each instance provides a partial reason (and you may think of others), but none provides a complete answer.

Something more is going on here, and our guessed at scenarios do not cover it, but a three word cliché may hint at the truth.

Location, location, location.

The adage is used with a very flat dimensionless meaning in the real estate industry to help agents focus on one simple fact about a property for sale.

When it comes to the pricing of a property: the quality of construction and materials, its suitability for any given purpose, and all aspects regarding architectural and cultural significance must take a back seat to where the property is located.

Properties for which everything else is otherwise equal will be priced very differently in different locations, sometimes even within a few feet of each other.

For example, significant locational price differences are routinely observed even as close as the distance from one side of a railroad track to the other.

Just ask a member of a minority population, and they will be glad to explain how they know this fact as a certain and detrimental daily truth.

In real estate the statement location, location, location is only a repeat of the same word with the same meaning being restated in order to emphasize a singular shallow concept.

However, for an artist the phrase location, location, location takes on a much deeper multi-layered meaning.

Each iteration of the word "location" holds a distinctly different definition filled with broad alternate connotation.

No need for us to belabor the explanation of all the levels an artist controls — a quick summary will suffice.

Even an artist will acknowledge the first "location" (place) must clearly refer to geographical coordinates, but they will also implicitly understand the second use of the word refers to a concept closer to the term "milieu" (context).

Then the third repeat of the word goes along the lines similar to the idea of "human spirit" for which the mawkishly sentimental placement of that location would be stated as "from the heart."

Whereas a real estate agent is hoping to tear a location apart by wresting it from one person's ownership to another based on the highest possible temporal monetary price, the artist considers a broader understanding of place making and aggregates a location's deepest levels of human value into a simple semiotic, passing on the essence of that value to the ownership of all.

So now we have location, location, location upscaled by the artist and expanded to mean recognition of place, broader cultural context, connection to the human spirit.

These enhanced concepts are quickly summed, not to price but to value.

The only way this can be adequately accomplished is with a pencil and brush in a human hand, using skills that do not spring up overnight.

These high level skills are acquired only through hard won artistic battles waged over considerable time with help from like-minded skilled observers who have themselves waged the same studied battles and are excited to share solid, specific, logical process.

The condensed distillation of all these elements of human value compacted into the Botanical Rain watercolor explains its long enduring power to elicit stunning emotional reactions.

Thus Botanical Rain is much, much more than a mere depiction of a known location.

It is also much less.

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