Recently, I had someone visit the gallery who actually engaged with me in a conversation about the work. It’s exceedingly RARE when anyone talks to me about our artists and our work, so I was quite excited to do so. The only way to get better at discussing artwork is to do so frequently. The gentleman who stopped by was late middle aged white male, complete with salt-n-pepper short scruff, so an any man who could be from this region. He had been meandering about the gallery a bit, looking at the work. When he reached my back office nook, we began some light chit chat while he scoured the work in my office. It was he that prompted the deeper discussion was his own remark that he felt that art today was morbid.
Oh? Is it? How so?
And so he began to express his concerns and his own views on the work on the wall. What REALLY interested me though, was not how he thought it was morbid, but WHO he thought the artists were. He presumed to know, and not in a haughty manner mind you, who had made the work based on the subject and media in which they’ve worked. I will say that I did let him wander down this path of presumptions just to see the picture he had painted in his head of the artists that I actually know and work with. I did change his picture by explaining who they were age-wise and where they were in their career. I certainly hope that I made him question his own preternatural instinct to categorize the artists based on the work that he sees.
But that’s part of the process, isn’t it? Viewing art with no or little context will prompt you to connect known dots within your head to create a portrait of WHO made this and WHY it exists. I know that I certainly do that. Some do this to categorize and box it up in their mind. Others (myself included) will try to make these connections to understand the artist and the work better.
Rather than strictly discussing the “good/bad” aspect of the art itself, we must also consider the artist’s intent with creation. What made them feel the need to create their work? What influenced them? External/Internal forces? By talking about the undercurrents of the creative process maybe we can not only better understand the work, but ourselves as humans collectively and individually.
I’m sorry to say that I am usually THE WORST person at remembering conversations in great detail. I’m a highly visual person, so images and the written word will stick better in my mind. I will remember the experience, however, and the fact that this conversation exists as it was a pleasant distraction from the day to day tasks that I had been immersed in.
Word to the wise: Talk to the people in the gallery! Ask about the work! We’re not just there to guard the gallery and we’re certainly not there to ignore you. Maybe we can change your initial perceptions of the art… but also… just maybe… you can change ours.