Recently a visitor examining one of my paintings asked, “Is your brain like this?” It is an understandable question, but can it be answered? What is the “this” that the gentleman was referring to? The “this” was his own brain perceiving some type of reality through a perception that had been sparked by the imagery I had created through my brain. In other words, he could perceive my artwork only as far as his own life experience allowed.
I come up against this question every time I look at another individual’s imagery: Am I seeing the inside workings of the artist’s brain? Minimalistic art has me wondering: Is this a painter who has a naturally reductionist mind, or a person who is craving structure because there is chaos within? Sunset colors in artwork (whether in traditional or contemporary art) have me musing about the calming richness of dusk and what the artist must have been feeling experientially while creating the piece. A painting in gray tones will have me searching for the artist’s living conditions and age. From these questions, I can come up with assumptions that might be far from the truth of the artists’ experiences because every question I create is a product of my own unique education and awareness, not the artist’s.
On the other hand, I might be completely on track. When the viewer feels a spark of recognition that resonates deeply within, that is when art meets truth, no matter what the variables of life experience. That is where the beauty of art transcends the superficial and walks out the door with us and into our own personal lives.
When at University I was taught about the premises of good design and authentic vision in creative expression. But I was also taught to be diligently aware of “personal taste.” What may not work for myself may be remarkably effective for another person. It is when we enter into the productive world of those who are different from us, and struggle intensely to find commonality, that we reach a state of humanistic depth. This depth can open our eyes to sponsor relationship not just in the art world, but also in every walk of our lives as we confront diversity at the office, in politics, on the streets, and in our home relationships.
One of the delights of working near PMA is that the Museum brings in a rich diversity of artistic styles and human experiences. In the past four years, I have viewed work from some of the most prestigious contemporary artists down to the exuberance of acclaimed newbies. The galleries have celebrated the works of the old, the middle aged, and the young. Cultures from around the world have been represented. Of remarkable note is the ample presentation of women’s art from the most structurally traditional to the progressively far out.
My brain, and those of my fellow studio artists at PMA, have been tested again and again as to where can we find common ground with these invited artists and their visions. It is now, after four years of osmotic art studies, that I am seeing a subtle shift in our expressions as we all incorporate the depth of the Museum’s collective unconscious into our studio work.
So, to answer that gentleman who came into my studio I say this: Yes, you see the workings of my brain in that painting, way down there on the deepest level of your conscious or unconscious self. You might also see it higher up, on the surface, as well. And thank you for asking, because that question is the door between every creative person’s soul, and your own creative soul. It is the mark of humanity.
Images above are clipped details from artwork presently showing in the Museum galleries: "Earth" by Sean Monaghan; "FloraBunda" by Gordon Smedt; "Untitled" by Edith Hillinger.
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"Musings After PAI" contains the personal observations of the artist in Studio 26, and not necessarily those of Museum Studios as a whole.