Framing is precision work. The spacing, the trimming, the hanging – there are so many little mistakes that can be made, in so many steps. By the end, if you’re not careful, those little mistakes pile into an eyesore. I’m by no means an expert, but I’ve gotten by with thrift store frames and secondhand posters. I’ve done it enough not to rely on the professionals who charge an arm and a leg for their service. The one or two professionally framed items I do have in my apartment look excellent, but I’d wager that’s more of a virtue of the art itself than it is the quality of the framing.
What’s more is that I appreciate the time and effort I spend to find the right sized (or close enough) frames, to trim slender strips of poster from the edge to make the artwork fit, to place the nail in exactly the right spot, in respect to the walls, ceiling, floor and other posters. The handcrafted nature of the product makes it feel real, true, earned and honorable. True, I do abhor a blank wall, and true, my mother complains endlessly about how crowded it makes my apartment look, but I don’t care. The framing, and the mounting of the frames, have become an exercise in hunting down perfection.
Poster hanging is addicting, and frames aren’t cheap. I try to reserve the privilege of framing for only the best of the best that I own. Of course, I usually go out and buy something better every chance I get, to keep improving, to keep chasing a more beautiful picture. But looking past that, I find myself mystified by the endless arrangements I can make upon my walls. Barring the number of holes I can make as I adjust this frame an inch, that frame a centimeter, I can keep changing the look and feel of my home. I can have a lot of white space, no white space, or a healthy amount of white space. I can place one frame in good lighting and another in total darkness.
And yet, with so many options before me, I have not yet reached satisfaction. One might say that since I keep getting new artwork, satisfaction gets pushed further back. But I do believe there is more intention to it. I enjoy seeing the structural elements of things, buildings unfinished, patterns on the loom, sculptures in the marble. Blank spaces where it seems obvious my next poster should go give me simultaneous enjoyment and frustration. The frustration drives me to search for my next piece to hang, but the enjoyment comes from knowing my work is not finished. It tells me that the wall is like myself: incomplete, imperfect, human.
It is difficult to accept imperfection, less so when it comes to hanging artwork, but without a doubt difficult in regards to ourselves. We want to believe our intellects are infallible, so it takes a great deal of pain for us to admit when we are wrong. We want to believe our bodies are exquisite, so it must be a mountain of shame that drives us to eat well and exercise. We want to live forever, so our panic must be great when the end approaches. It is a terrible paradox, to know that one is imperfect, impure, but to believe differently. Such is the strength of our self-delusion that we shy from faith, sneer at devotion, and act bellicose in holy places.
With all of this in our minds, it can be hard to forgive ourselves. You often hear people complaining or exulting about their faith in humanity, being restored or destroyed in response to good news or bad news. But what these people forget in those moments is that humanity is like the walls of my apartment. It looks attractive to some people and offensive to others. It has room for improvement, but only so much capacity, only so many places I can make holes in the walls. It is, defiantly, resolutely, human. And what is most important about human imperfection, is that we can accept it, and continue the work we have set out for ourselves. We accept, and we improve.