We’ve all had those teachers who drone on about the deep messages hidden in poetry, literature, and various types of art. As an artist, this has always bothered me, because I don’t like to think of how people might misinterpret my artwork. I’ve realized over the years that this is not something I can control, that when you release art, interpretation is in the hands of the audience. Still, I can try to be nice to my fellow artists and try not to over analyze their work.
Yesterday I walked around an art museum for the first time since I visited the Louvre in 2007. I won’t deny that the Israel museum is quite a step down from the Louvre. But there are some thought-provoking pieces in there. My date and I strolled around, gawking at the various sand tables and dried brooms which were not very impressive, finally stopping in front of a giant canvas, covered entirely in black paint.
“And the thing is, he used a small brush,” said my date.
I nodded. “Of course.” For the contrast. The painting is flawless; the strokes are invisible, only the rough surface of the canvas can be identified beneath the smooth layer of black.
“I wonder if there’s something underneath it,” I mused. I was reminded of a story I heard from my grandmother about a kindergarten age girl who used to paint beautiful pictures and then cover them all in black. Where I was unimpressed with the giant black painting a moment before, I began to wonder what its earlier incarnations looked like. A painting doesn’t usually appear out of thin air. It’s a process.
When I think about my literature teachers who felt the need to make everything a sex symbol, I can’t help feeling a little misunderstood as an artist. Yeah, a lot of things probably are sex symbols, but not everything. If a painting has a message to give, it will deliver without somebody else explaining it to you. Art shouldn’t be analyzed down to the last green dot in the corner. Art should speak for itself without the use of words. Art speaks with silence. A work of art which is truly remarkable should fill a silent museum with echoes of emotion. People don’t wait hours on line to see the Mona Lisa because it’s big, or pretty (which it is neither) but because it shakes you up. So modern art may be a little less visually appealing, but if you can hear it shout, then it has succeeded in doing its job.