My Mother would sometimes talk about art, She didn’t like Abstract because she “couldn’t make head or tail of it” and to be honest, I find it difficult to understand too, I’m sure a lot of people are in that boat.
But one day I understood something about my Mum, which was a bit of a revelation and it started during a conversation about art.
Mum liked pretty art, portraits, or landscapes, or kittens. She didn’t like art which was in any way confronting. Of course I knew that, but the light-bulb came on and I asked her a question.
“Mum, you do realise that art isn’t just supposed to be… pretty… don’t you?”
The look on her face told me that that was indeed what she thought.
So I told her that art is supposed to invoke an emotion, any emotion.
Fear, pain, grief, joy, love, hate, fear, loss, pain, lust and so on.
There had been one notable work at the time, called “Piss Christ” which she thought was really wrong and shouldn’t have been made. Mum had been bought up as a Christian, and I’m sure it irritated bits of her.
If you see a work of art, or indeed hear it if it’s music, and it causes an emotion to float to the surface, then it has done its job, and if people talk about it, well that’s even better.
Piss Christ had been discussed and condemned by articles in most of the local rags and by reports on the television news, therefore it had been successful.
Though what it was trying to say remains a mystery to me, and that’s alright too, art doesn’t need to be explained.
Do you remember seeing country singers on TV years ago? They’d come out onto the stage and sit on a stool, and tell a short story about the song they were about to sing, where they wrote it, and what it was all about, I always found that a little strange.
Let the viewer or the listener decide what the art is about, otherwise you turn people off
“Oh really? it’s about X?, I thought it was about Y… I’m not interested anymore”
Of course I remember Glen Campbell telling a story about a fan who didn’t like that gory song about the man’s body hanging on the wire… Wichita Lineman.
I wished I had woken up sooner and told Mum about this, perhaps it would have opened her mind to these things a little better, but I couldn’t always explain things all that well either, that ability seemed to have emerged much later.