"Yes, I see what it is," she'd say, "but what is it about?" What it is and what it's about are rarely one and the same when it comes to art. As artists, we want our work to communicate something to the viewer, but a painting of an apple does not necessarily mean to convey the idea, "here's an apple." Visual art, like a written passage, is not very satisfying if it doesn't require you to make inferences. Most readers/viewers will tend to feel cheated if the creator of the work hits them over the head with their message, and it's also just not very interesting.
When I showed my latest piece to my family on Christmas day, my son-in-law wanted to know what I was thinking when I made it; he wanted to know what it's about. A legitimate question, but for me, it's not always an easy one to answer. I mean, I know what it's about, but it's always difficult to put it into words. After all, if I were good at putting words together, I'd be a writer, not an artist. For me, creating meaning from color and line and form is so much easier. But it's our responsibility, isn't it, to help others interpret what we've created.
Theory of Flightingredients: vintage book cover; vintage book pages, ledger page, children's writing paper and book parts; image transfers; vintage stamps; vintage map fragment; found objects; brass wire; acrylic ink; hand stitching; feathers
So here's what I told him :
I was thinking about flight, and how unlikely it seems. Like, how do things fly if they're heavier than air? I know there is a scientific mechanism, called lift, but really, when you think about it, it just defies common sense.
We talked about how there is a fundamental mystery about it, something we can't really fully understand just by using our senses. I guess the pulley and those other metal things represent the scientific theory, the causation of something happening, how it affects something else which causes something else to happen... and you have flight. But really, isn't it a bit like magic? The objects, feathers and drawing could just as easily represent a magic spell as something scientific.
As we discussed this, I felt like he 'got it', and was able to come to a deeper appreciation of the piece, as opposed to just seeing it as something decorative. And I was wondering what other artists think about this aspect of being creative. Do you think we should be able to talk about our work, or are the viewers 'on their own' so to speak? How much do you explain, and how much do you leave to their own interpretation?
p.s. I apologize for the terrible quality of the photo, but I have tried numerous times with a borrowed 'point-and-shoot', and they never come out totally in focus. Anyone know somebody with a used DSLR they want to sell?