Why are we drawn to ruins? As an artist, I seek the derelict car rusting in the overgrown field. The tumbledown shed that was pedestrian when it was a freshly painted, slapped-together project, now holds romance. Even the bones of some animal, bleached and beginning to spall into dust hold a fascination for us that a fleeting glimpse of the same creature seen through the trees when it was quick, would not.
The Sphinx, the Great Wall, Angkor Wat, all have a pull on us in their ruins. What fascinates us about decay?
If I paint a perfect picture of a 1947 Diamond T truck sparkling in the morning sun it will elicit a shrug at best. Pull a wheel off, prop the axle on a block, break out a headlight and give the thing a few dents, then cover it with a variegated coating of rust, and now you have something. Let’s sell prints of that.
Death, I suppose. We are compelled and repelled by it. We must stop at the accident scene. We have to look at the scar. Maybe if we see it a little closer, if we experience the terrible from just a little distance, we can calm our fears. If we get to know it, maybe it won’t hurt us. If we cannot escape that ultimate curtain call, well, at least it won’t surprise us so much when we are ruined.