I've been very gratified and delighted by the positive feedback from the wee change I made to the snowmobile piece. Thank you all! I have to admit that despite my initial trepidation, that piece now makes me smile. :-)
Coincidentally, the reaction to 'Snowmobiles', as well as the experience I had at the presentation in Calgary last week, added to my ongoing pondering about the nature of art.
Krista Tippet and the late John O'Donohue. I was intrigued by him and wanted to read some of his writing; Beauty was available at the library so I sent for it and it arrived at my local branch last week.
The text is rich, poetic and complex, so it's rather slow reading; however, very early on -- actually, in his Introduction -- O'Donohue quoted James Hillman, thus:
The arts, whose task once was considered to be that of manifesting the beautiful, will [now] discuss the idea only to dismiss it, regarding beauty only as the pretty, the simple, the pleasing, the mindless and the easy. Because beauty is conceived so naively, it appears as merely naive, and can be tolerated only if complicated by discord, shock, violence, and harsh terrestrial realities. I therefore feel justified in speaking of the repression of beauty. (emphasis mine)
How interesting to read this in the wake of that Calgary experience, where the artist admitted that she and her colleague found some of the embroidered images "cliche" -- pretty? Naive? Uncomplicated? Even beautiful? -- and took steps to provide "discord, shock, violence [and a reflection of] harsh terrestrial realities" by cutting into the quilt top, leaving the holes, and appliqueing the cut shapes randomly around the "cliche" image in an attempt to make the piece more 'edgy'.
In the same vein, I recently received an e-note from someone who commented that she'd seen several of the pieces for the upcoming SAQA "Santa Fe Spotlight" fundraiser -- and that mine stood out as more 'traditional'...the gist of her thought being that she wondered how it would fare in the auction, given the nature of the other contenders which are (apparently) less so. She didn't elaborate on what she meant, and I didn't pursue it, but the implication is that my piece was perhaps too 'pretty'...didn't have an edge, didn't make a statement...
In describing my work to the Calgary couple who purchased "Prairie Autumn", for perhaps the first time I confidently articulated my objective with these sorts of pieces: to touch someone's heart, to awaken a memory, to recall a simpler time in life, to provide an opportunity to pause and reflect or simply delight in the moment.
Yes, I have had my share of hardship and darkness -- and I have come to agree with Hillman. I believe that behind his words is the thought that there is so much darkness, disillusionment, resentment, fear, anger and cynicism in our world that in order to cope with it, many in the arts have elevated the expression of those emotions to a level of sophistication unworthy of them, allowing no room for the beautiful, the peaceful, the loving, the miraculous and the mysterious.
If we let it, our rampant social media can be filled with this same dark view. Blessedly, to date, we have the ability to filter it in favour of the inspirational, the joyous, the lovely, the light-hearted. And I do so choose.