Filigree & Kitsch

Iron gateway and garden sculptures, St. Augustine, FL

Few relative things feel more absolute than matters of taste. We all know bad taste when we see it—except that, as it turns out, we disagree vehemently as to what exactly it is.

In this image, for my money the gate ironwork is “good taste old”—elegant, graceful, understated. The two garden sculptures behind it are “bad taste old”—kitschy, clunky, second-rate imitations. They all have the patina of age, but only one feels authentic to me. Only the ironwork is tasteful.

Appearances matter to me, a lot.

I don’t like to have things around me that are ugly or badly maintained or thoughtlessly thrown together. Disordered stuff snags my eye, meaninglessly, over and over. Disharmonious visual material makes me physically and emotionally uncomfortable. It grates at me.

You might think that this makes me OCD-neat. Nope, far from it. But I can tolerate some kinds of visual clutter much more than others. I am particularly bothered by things that could be lovely or pleasing but aren’t, due to one small detail or a simple carelessness that could be quickly or easily remedied.

I am perpetually astonished that others don’t feel the same way, despite a lifetime of evidence that it is so.


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