Friday, August 21, 2009

Whose Story?

I had lunch with a new acquaintance yesterday, a photographer. Although she's a prize-winning photographer (yay!), she's also a fairly new one. She took a black-and-white photo of another artist's watercolor of eggs in a nest. She did some magic with it, and it was the first prize she ever won. When she brought the painting back to the artist, he told her to keep it. It was entitled New Beginnings, and he felt that my friend was the one with the new beginnings, not himself.

Well, that's a nice enough story, isn't it? But here I am, being disagreeable again. I love the photo of the eggs and, even more, the watercolor of it. But all that back story does nothing for me. It may actually detract from the pleasure. What if, for instance, I love the egg piece because it reminds me of gathering eggs with my grandma when I was really small? That memory, stimulated by the painting, doesn't conjure new beginnings for me. It conjures the past: my past.

I was at the photographer's house, and I saw a gorgeous ... um, piece. It's a wooden board maybe four feet long, with seven or eight five-inch pieces of wood glued onto it like big rectangular buttons. Each is painted in beautiful seashore colors, bold and happy. I love it.

But then I'm told it's made from wood found in the artist's yard after Hurricane Ivan. In fact, "Ivan" is in the name of the piece, which I forgot because I wanted to. It might have been something like Ivan's Gift, which is okay, but. But. I love the thing for its color and shape. I don't need the history to appreciate it even more. Like the egg painting, this extra information takes away from it.

My photographer said that many people ask for the stories. Yes. I bet they do. And they should be told. But I, apparently, am one of the ones who doesn't want to know.

I'm wondering if it's a form of territorialism on my part. When I buy something with a sticker on it, I remove the sticker. I don't care if it's a watering can or a trash can. I don't care if the sticker's on the bottom or inside. It's not mine until I remove the sticker.

Somehow, not wanting to hear the artist's story about her own work seems connected. If the painting is now mine, then I'm going to tell the story of how I found it and what it means to me. It's the artist's prerogative to tell her story about it, right up until she sells it. Then it's mine.

Well, as you know if you've been paying attention (and you know who you are), I don't like naming things anyhow -- neither cars nor cats -- and naming a piece of art seems extra awful. If art is in the eye of the beholder, then you're better off keeping it Untitled.

As I left my photographer yesterday, she pointed out a watercolor that had somehow ended up in her garage. She doesn't remember where it came from. She doesn't especially like it. It's on my desk right now, just so I can watch it. There's no room on my desk, of course, but there's no room on my wall, either. (I really need that new house!)

There's a volcano in the picture (which I'm sharing) and a village at the bottom (which I'm not). The house roofs are thatched. The colors are absolutely beautiful -- a lot of olives and sages with just enough blue, purple, and red. The whole thing is very restful. Even the volcano seems to be having a post-prandial smoke, with nothing fatal in its evening plans. I mentioned the church, but the photographer looked at me askance. Oh. She's right. There is no church. But I see a holy man anyhow, so there may as well be a church.

If the title turns out to be Happy Hour, I'm not going to be happy.

You Facebookers will find out this evening which mailbox was chosen. You Bloggers will have to wait till the next blog.

1 comment:

Don Moore said...

When I was a kid my uncle used to play a song on 8-track that I thought was "Do Vases Have Eyes?" Years later I learned it was actually "Two Faces Have I."

Even so, I still think of my uncle when I hear it.