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When John McEnroe interviewed Serena Williams at Wimbledon (a couple of years ago?) he started out by asking her opinion of the clothes he was wearing (grunge).  That’s because she is known to be a fashionista and a designer herself.

We can be sure her semi-finals outfit at Wimbledon this year was one of her designs.  Two colors: white for the dress;  fuchsia for the headband, the wrist band and the underpants.  Now, Serena, what WERE you thinking?

And, dear girl, what WERE you listening to as you were putting this ensemble on paper?  Must have been some rapper.  Was it Fifty-Cent? Only rapper language can get to the bottom of your inspiration.

I know it’s a hard life, being way up there among the tennis players.  Several hours of practice with your coach every day. Then you go to a fancy dinner and a hot night life spot and then all that bench-pressing and then you have a photo op… with such a schedule, who has time to study composition!

Composition?

One of the topics we deal with in composition is “grouping.”   When you look at this cluster of shapes, you don’t just see disparate things. Your minds tends to look for patterns and associations and to see groupings whenever possible.  You can group the circles together, or the triangles.

Or in the next example, you group the black circles and you group the white circles.  You see two constellations.

If Serena had made the pants white, the pants would relate, or group with, the dress and we would not notice them as a separate unit.

But we do see them as a separate unit, as part of a grouping of four items: headband—two wristbands—round bottom.  It’s a constellation and it stands out.  All the more so because of the color, a hot pink.  When we watch Serena on the court, we see one, two, three, four and among these the greatest is…

This has to be intentional.  Serena wants us to look at her bum, as they say in the greater London area.  Or as the rappers say, ass.  As in, kick ass.  British athletes probably don’t say, “Righteeoh, I shall wield that racket with utmost force and aplomb and, as it were, kick bum.”   They probably also say, kick ass.  We can be sure that Serena’s buddies talk like that.

By this unfortunate design, she has transformed her statuesque, regal presence into a cheap joke.  Thus the picture of grace, power and concentration is sicklied o’er by trash-talk.

Composition is a tricky thing. What’s intentional?  What’s a happy accident? What subliminal associations can be formed in this, say, landscape.  Those are questions that involve the perception of groupings.  What associates to what?  You always have to squint at your work and ask, hmm, is this what I want the work to associate to.

You can argue that with Serena’s hot pants, it’s a moot question.  Intentional or not?  I vote intentional. Notice that her jacket doesn’t have any fuchsia trim.  If she had wanted more color, the jacket would have been the place.  So, yes, the  kick-ass pants, , are intentional.

(Here’s my caricature of Serena Williams from ten years ago. I guess I’ve been a fan for a long time.)

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