A friend recently shared several articles on the visual arts with me. As I read them, I found a lot to pounder. One area that I have never fully understood is how people interpret my art. A quote from a blog written by artist Hunter Wild summed it up nicely:
“There’s a great feedback loop, where what’s painted is certainly coming FROM me and is strongly connected to who I am, but I discover some part of myself in the painting, something that wasn’t intended and something I didn’t even know was present.”
For years, I understood that part of me is in each painting I create, but I often am surprised at the comments shared by my supporters regarding the meaning of the paintings. My first reaction is the person is giving me too much credit for being profound! This feeling isn’t because I think I’m a poser. As I age, I feel more confident in my work each passing year and know I am an artist.
I realize my surprise is due to, as Hunter said, the viewer perceives “something I didn’t know was present.”
I find I enjoy people seeing things in my art that I had not seen. For example, I have an ongoing series on urban display windows, which show the merchandise placed inside the store and include the reflections of the city buildings. The ideas I have behind these paintings are multiple.
- I love cities and city life.
- Display windows are often found in older buildings, in cities.
- I am from the Chicago area and have a rich experience visiting downtown Chicago. I recall the city’s beauty from my childhood, especially during December. The businesses would attempt to outdo one another in decorating their display windows. In the 60s and 70s, stores including Marshall Fields & Co. had fantastic windows filled with holiday stories; Santa house, the elves creating toys, the reindeers flying through the sky. Every year, the windows drew crowds from far and wide.
- I went to college in downtown Chicago. At that time, I wrote a paper on how the Marshall Fields display department created the windows. I had a behind-the-scenes glimpse of that department.
- I love to meld the merchandise on display in my paintings, with the buildings, cars, and people passing by the window.
- Also, I work hard to apply my knowledge of design and color theory principles in my works.
So that is what I think and feel when I look at a completed piece from my display window series. I recently had a couple of comments on this series. Both people saw things in my work that fall into the “something I didn’t know was present” category.
John, friend, and son of one of my artistic influencers said of my work, “Storefronts have an interior life, but you as the observer are separated from the elements within by glass and stone. You can only imagine what might be going on inside, perhaps you have a longing to be on the inside as well, and in your art, you create a universe that is a statement on your existential situation.”
One of my favorite folks and previous coworker from the Art Institute of Indianapolis, Sherri, shared “This is beautiful and a (my opinion) subtle commentary on our modern consumerism and gluttonous consumption of the Arts, and really everything in our life as we speed towards what?”
In both cases, John and Sherri see things that I wasn’t aware of in my work. And yet, when I think about their insights, I can see what they are saying. It’s a gift to hear other people’s views on my “babies.”
When I read art historian comments on selected artists’ work, I used to think that if the artist didn’t say or write those words about the meaning of their work, then it can’t apply. But I now see the errors of my ways. There is more to our work than our limited and attached view of each piece we create.
Artists bare their souls in their work. They may or may not be aware of the more profound message their work invokes in the viewer. Some artists know the depth of the message they convey in their work, and then there are people like me. I am humbled by the comments of John, Sherri, and every person who took the time to analyze my work. I am constantly learning!