# (this is annie)

### Theories of numerical movement

Sometime in the last quadrant of his life, my father began incorporating the numeral 2 into his paintings. Whenever he showed his art, people would inevitably ask about its meaning. "No significance," he'd say. "It's just a visual device."

Even I did not believe him.

After a few art fairs, he could predict the question by seeing the look on someone's face, and I think he grew tired of delivering the same answer. It wasn't that he was an artiste who wanted people to interpret the 2 on their own. (He loathed purple-prose artists' statements and the like.) He just didn't like unspooling the same old story. If there was indeed a lofty meaning, he hid it pretty well. Either that, or it was a long-running poop joke.

He eventually told me, and then others, what the 2 was about. He'd been honest in describing it as a visual device; as a former commercial artist, he could look at the world and know how to correct imbalance or introduce something new — at least with acrylics on masonite, anyway. When he was working on a painting and it had too much white space, or had subject matter weighing it to one side, he'd paint a 2.

But why two? Why not eight or three or any other digit? "Two is a stable number," he explained. This made no sense until he walked me through it, and this is the best I can do to remember and paraphrase his logic. It will help to look at the numerals and imagine them as though they were sitting on a line:

0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9

And now we examine each. Zero is too similar to a circle, and it rolls over anyway. One is stark and thin, and half the time it just looks like a plain vertical line. Three, five, six, eight, and nine can't stay standing on their own. Four is top-heavy and teeters; seven tips to the right and lands with a thud.

Two, though! Two is solid. It curves and bends, yet remains anchored by a steady base. Maybe its shape really is the only reason he chose to put 2 on so many paintings, but I have my doubts. I like to think that he was quietly highlighting the human quest for connection, that basic and near-universal wish to find someone who helps to keep us grounded as we live our messy lives. For who among us would not want to believe in that possibility, to hope that two is indeed the most stable of numbers?

Labels: ,

#### 5 Responses to “Theories of numerical movement”

1. #

I've been meaning to send you these two messages: Welcome to California! and Thank you for writing a lot more these days. So sorry to hear about your dad...and your foot...and...hope you are healing well. Btw, I loved this story about the number two. It makes complete sense!

Best,
Lara from Oakland

2. #

So, 1 is the loneliest number, 2 is the most solid, and three is still magic?

3. #  annie

Hi, Lara, and thanks for the kind words. I confess that Oakland mostly remains a mystery to me because I'm lazy about BARTing over there, but in general, the Bay Area is lovely, yeah? Are you a native?

Chris — hmm, I don't think one is the loneliest number. There are times when people can make you feel more alone than solitude does. Then again, I am a diehard armchair existentialist, so take that with a liberal sprinkling of salt. (Preferably La Baleine.)

I'd like to believe that two can be the most solid of numbers, but it isn't inherently so. But even the possibility is beautiful, no? Three, who knows.

4. #

I suspect Chris is quoting Three Dog Night's song "One (Is The Loneliest Number)", although it goes on to say:

"One is the loneliest number that you'll ever do
Two can be as bad as one
It's the loneliest number since the number one"

5. #  annie

Ah. I am not familiar with these nocturnal canines. I've heard of them, but I don't know their songs. Thank you! I'll file it away in the musical-allusion folds of my brain.

## say hello

it's anniet at gmail.

XML