I enjoy when curators add textual descriptions to shows at museums. I love to have a little bit of the context within which the artist was working. But sometimes I have to laugh at the effort to find some Big Meaning in what is often much more likely to be a small decision on the part of the artist.
I remember, for instance, a teacher suggesting that when one gets stumped, paint pears. It turns out to be a great trick to keep you painting — which is what will give you ideas for new things to paint, which pulls you out of your slump. Ever afterwards, whenever I see pears in a painting, I think to myself: no, that artist was not making a statement about loneliness, or body image in the 21st century, or the the bougie nature of monogamous relationships… nope, that artist got stumped, went to the grocery and grabbed the first pears they could find, then settled down to work and get to the other side of that slump.
I was fighting the pull of my blue couch one day… and instead of spending so much energy resisting it, I decided to run right at that darn thing and give it a hug. By which I mean: I decided to paint it. And of course, as I was painting it, I had some ideas about creating the same image with a different process, and that led to two more paintings.
3 blue couch paintings; in oil or acrylic on panel; each 6″ x 12″
Interestingly, embracing the blue couch (metaphorically) instead of trying to fight it, seemed to weaken its hold over me for quite awhile. Hmmm.
So, now, whenever I see an artist’s painting of their studio space, I think: yup, they were fighting themselves that day. We have a lot of paintings of artists’ studios over the years — which means that even people like Picasso, Matisse, Sargent had to fight personal demons in their work… Sort of reassuring! Plus a lot of those paintings are pretty wonderful — offering a quick peek into the working life of some very talented folks.