Should Art Be in the Eye of the Beholder?
BEHOLD!! I have created art!!
The image above is entitled Waiting for Ole McDonald. I unveiled it to a close friend of mine and solicited her feedback. Here is her review:
My Friend: “OMG! I really like it! The lighting is nice. I appreciate all the detail. The sexual overtones of the woman waiting in the barn for an afternoon rendezvous with the farmer is very evident. It’s hot!”
I then revealed to her the true meaning of the piece:
Me: ”The woman in the image has been secretly kept in the barn and occasionally assaulted by the farmer, our unseen antagonist named Ole McDonald. This has been happening for years, and the look on the woman’s face is a silent cry for help mixed with an indifference forged by years of not being rescued.”
There was silence — a silence begging to be filled by a hearty, “But wait, there’s more.”
Me: ”The piece is inspired by the Ariel Castro story (3 women held captive in Ohio for 10 years). Since the subject matter is “sensitive”, I opted not to be more overt with the title and image content. Instead, my hope was that, while trying to figure out what’s going on in the image, the viewer would start subconsciously murmuring the nursery rhyme “Old McDonald had a farm…EIEIO (obviously the sound of copulating farm animals)….”, and let their respective minds assemble the troubling details.”
My friend then asserted that she understands that this is my art, but that she didn’t like the direction my work was headed. She was no longer a fan of the image.
Strange. The image never changed – just her interpretation of the image changed.
Interpreting some of the world’s greatest works of art is a wonderful intellectual pastime. While the debate over art goes great with fine wine and cheese, I’m not sure all artists are overjoyed with the exercise. Should art is in the eye of the beholder?
When I create an image, I have clarity about the story I’m trying to communicate. There’s a definite feeling I want my viewer to have — emotions I’m trying desperately to evoke. I know I can’t totally control the viewer’s perception (duh), but when I find that my work is misinterpreted, I do have a subtle feeling of failure. It’s not “slit my wrist despair”, but a mild “awww shucks” is there nevertheless.
I don’t think I’m alone.
A comedian doesn’t want his audiences to sob in despair. A dramatic actor would prefer movie goers not break-out in gales of laughter. Philip Bailey from Earth, Wind and Fire chuckles about the fact that the perennially popular wedding song Reason is really about a one night stand.
…but Philip is chuckling all the way to the bank, so there’s that.
Some artists purposely create with ambiguity. They craft abstract, multi-colored patterns and play Rorschach with the public. To each his own, but I prefer to create with intention. Having a platform to express my creativity is a privilege. I’m trying to create a community around my work. Since I’m lucky enough to have an audience, I don’t want to squander that opportunity by being fuzzy. Like my work. Hate my work. I’m just going to do my part to help you understand my work.
…and we can still enjoy wine, cheese, and maybe those little hot dogs snuggled in that delectable flaky pastry.
Note: I have since changed the title of this piece to Miss Used. That should help frame the meaning a little better.