I’m not a writer. Don’t have a blog. In fact, I illustrated my way through book reports as a kid. My biggest dilemma was what to write about when Lori asked if I would be interested in contributing to her project. What do I have to contribute to the cacophony of words that are already spinning around out there in cyberspace?
A couple of days before I embarked on a painting adventure to Southern Utah, I was in my local coffee house talking with a gentleman named George about his recent cross country road trip. He mentioned exploring and photographing the Capital Reef area, but shared his frustration with the photos he took of the vermillion walls and saturated sunsets. His words to me in describing the beauty he saw and felt were full of intensity and wonder, the description of his experience, full of emotion. He said his photos fell flat of his expectations.
I shared with him how fortunate I feel to be able to set up my easel and paint that beauty he was describing, interpreting the experience through my medium. Allowing for the heat, smells and light to influence my approach to the canvas. How I am not always satisfied either by my interpretation of the scene before me, but always love the experience of trying. The physical experience of painting brings about a deep seeded need to lay claim to something beautiful, and an opportunity to share that moment with someone.
Our conversation turned to his visit to the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Van Gogh paintings hanging on the walls. “Why should I like Van Gogh? I don’t get it.” He said. I started to explain about color relationships, design, form, line, mark making, all the technical “stuff” that comes from teaching workshops. I quickly realized I sounded like Charlie Brown’s teacher in the Peanuts comic strip…
I shifted gears and started to talk about Van Gogh’s compelling story, how when one sits still enough you can feel the passion in his mark making, you can see the emotion in his choice of subject matter, his exploration of color. His work, I told George, is visceral. Then I realized I was sharing my experience with Van Gogh’s paintings, and George would either be spurred on by my passion to look deeper or he wouldn’t.
Why did this conversation spark my interest? I realized it is integral to our human makeup to respond to memories, images, sounds and smells…. If one doesn’t recognize what they are seeing, smelling, listening to, then it is less likely one will LIKE it upon their first encounter… If one grew up listening to the thick massive sounds of heavy metal bands one might be less likely to enjoy the slow movement of a classical music piece upon the first hearing. Or, if one's appreciation of art was based on how closely a painting looks like a photograph, trying to relate to a more expressive approach in style may spur a negative reaction until one has a deeper knowledge of the painting process, is able to discern the work within the context of history, or is offered a chance to see the work in a new way.
My life is surrounded by family and friends who support what I do, but don’t quite understand it, and that my work is a part of who I am. They see a level of competency, maybe a dollar value, a painting may speak to them because what I do is fairly representational. But most don’t choose to take a closer look, to ask about it, to delve deeper to understand the why. I straddle two worlds, my art world and, what I call, my real life world. It is rare that they mix.
I am grateful to Lori Putnam, because without her request to participate in this project I would not have been as open to the conversation with George. I would have continued to keep my two lives separate. I was given the opportunity to share my art world with my real life world, and it felt good. I encouraged George to learn the craft of photography in order to better capture the beauty and memory of his experiences. I was able to suggest a possible new way for him to look at art. Maybe he will join the rest of us who are compelled to look at beauty with a discerning eye and study deeper in order to express our creativity.
As artists, it is within our power to offer our passion to those willing to see and feel. Thank you, Lori Putnam, for allowing me to share both of my worlds here in your cyber space.
To learn more about Kim and her art world, please visit her website.