BY LOIS DESOCIO
When you walk through the back door of my house, and look to the right, there is a long narrow hallway, with a 15-foot-long wall that is chock-full of a 4-foot rectangle of crooked pictures. There’s a bathroom down towards the end of the hallway, and by the time the uninitiated, first-timers-to-my-house walk down that hallway, and come out of the bathroom, they often ask: “What happened to your wall?” Or they let me know that: “Your pictures are all on top of each other, and not lined up.” Or even worse – they start to straighten them.
Thing is – I want them to be this way. I deliberately piled frame on frame. It looks like there was an earthquake. Actually, there is a science to it, and a lot of planning to make it look like there is no planning. But no tape measure or pencil is needed, nor any other fancy how-to-hang-a-picture gadget. The planning comes in the mission to leave no wall space between the frames. Much like the “splatter and action” technique of abstract expressionist painter, Jackson Pollock, I like to make a mess of my wall. I’m a twisted madwoman when I’m hanging – mixing big frames with small, topping the corners of grandma’s 8 x 10 portrait with a sideways snapshot of my two sons as toddlers in the bathtub with their Ninja Turtles. Often, I have to tilt and turn to get rid of as much peeking wall as possible. If I hit a glitch, or there just isn’t an easy fix – I hang an empty frame:
I can’t claim this idea as my own. And there is a name for this, I just can’t remember it, nor can I find it anywhere. (A friend told me recently that she saw something similar in Pottery Barn’s Halloween catalog – how to make your wall “spooky.”)
I first saw the technique decades ago, in an old black-and-white movie that had a wacky wall of pictures in the background. It stuck with me. I just needed a wall. In the 1980s, my husband and I bought our first house, which had an odd-shaped wall on the second floor. One side just about met the floor. It was here that I began my picture tapestry, because not only did I have a potential canvas, I also had a new baby. So those photos of his every wiggle, squirm, drool, cry, laugh … went up on this wall. From here, and from house to house, and with a second new baby, the wall became a baby wall – filled with baby pictures of everyone in my and my husband’s family.
The wall I now have in my current house is the grandest of them all. It is a culmination of 27 years of previous, twisted walls – an overflowing chronicle of my two sons’ lives so far, plus anything else I want to put up there. Parents, grandparents, brothers, nephews: all there. People I love who have died: lovingly placed. Girlfriends: in place. (One old boyfriend.) Beloved dogs: check. (Two are dead.)
I’m writing about this because I’m going to be moving at some point in the near future, and I will have to take my wall down. I most likely will not be able to replicate the wall as it is, wherever I end up, because I don’t believe I will ever have as perfect a wall as I have now. But on all the new hallways and walls that come my way in the future, there will always be a small cluster of twisted and bundled photos of my clustered, twisted messed-up picture wall.