Extracting Depths of Meaning from Art as Matters of Opinion

Having recently had the pleasure of touring the Andy Warhol exhibit (with free admission, I might add) in the city where I currently live, I was inundated with the responses from critics, newspaper and other media deriding Warhol’s work not to be art.


In viewing the exhibit, I came to the conclusion that I’d previously alluded to in my posts: that is, that there is such a thing as art in the everyday.  Warhol was a man who wanted to celebrate the art that existed in celebrity, in the everyday, mundane, household objects that we would never otherwise notice; yet he himself hid away, wanting the celebrity for himself, if only to have other masks to hide behind.


This then addresses the question: what is art? For that matter, what drives a person to represent something as art? I believe in Warhol’s motivation, and in his work, as he wanted to show the world why he believed disaster, tragedy and everyday objects had a beauty all of their own. Indeed, as I walked along, admiring his many pieces, I even remarked to an acquaintance that I would’ve loved to get a chance to interview the man.  Unfortunately, Warhol passed some nine days after my birth, a fact that as an art enthusiast, I find a great disappointment.


The simple truth of the matter is this: that there is no true definition of art. In fact, there is no tangible rule or boundary you are unable to cross as an art enthusiast that says if you are a lover of the Impressionists that you may not equally be as enamoured with the works of the brilliant Georgia O’Keefe, or of Canadian pioneer Emily Carr.


Myself, while I admire the work of O’Keefe, Carr and Warhol, my true favourites are known by the names of Salvador Dali, Wassily Kandinsky, Pablo Picasso and others who fit into the realm of abstract expressionism, surrealism and cubism.


In the past, I’ve been asked, why these artists in particular? Why not Rodin, Munch or Van Gogh? Certainly, there have been works from Van Gogh in the past that have resonated with me, but I love abstract expressionism and surrealism because you are able to derive your own meanings, your own emotions from them much more so than other artists.


I say this because to draw inspiration from a painting such as The Secret Life or A Persistence of Memory may be an insurmountable feat to many. There is no defined meaning within the painting itself, no label that allows you to place it into a category immediately upon viewing the work.  They are not scenes of boats sailing in the harbour, or a lioness tending to her cubs. Deeper meanings can and should be drawn from such paintings, even if they may be completely foreign to the artist’s intentions.


What I’ve always loved about art is its subjectivity; there isn’t a person alive who can rightfully claim that you are wrong, that your vision is flawed or that what you choose to place on canvas, on display isn’t beautiful. What it is is a matter of opinion. Much like its fellows in the arts, writing, film, music, stage and others; much of its success or failure depends on the opinion of the vast majority.


I believe that that is why I’d always loathed art classes, though I’ve been an art enthusiast and loved surrealism and abstract expressionism for years, it was never a talent that I’d picked up for myself. The ones who deride your work, your inspiration as nothing but garbage, are those who can’t understand your vision.


Many critics of the great abstract expressionist Jackson Pollock frequently claimed that his work was not art at all; indeed, coining the phrase “a five year-old could do it”.  Fact of the matter was, however, that a five year old didn’t do what Pollock did, nor did a five year old do what Dali, Magritte and even Hurst is doing today.


There is never a right or wrong answer, simply what resonates to you, what speaks to you, and in my case, sometimes hits you so hard you can barely breathe.  I was incredibly blessed to be able to see the Monet to Dali twice in my hometown, and the works from Dali, Magritte and Picasso knocked the wind out of me. Through such work, each artist in turns bares their soul to an audience, in this case, many audiences and though those of us here today won’t get the opportunity to know the artists for who they were, we know them today for who they are and what they mean to us.


For me, it’s not about understanding the artist’s vision as much as it is forming my own vision, my own interpretation and inspiration. I believe that all forms of art; music, film, writing, stage and fine art itself, all somehow derive ideas from one another and from life in general. Much of my emotions, thoughts and beliefs on such works of art have made their way into my poetry as well as other forms of writing.


Art has worked to inspire, move me to tears and embrace me with the visual understanding of my emotions. Though there are a great many artists I will never have the privilege of meeting, the legacy left behind in their work reminds me that at a point in time, there once was an individual who saw the world through my eyes. Though it may be a futile effort to attempt to explain, I believe there is a kinship that connects all of us artists, albeit writer, songwriters, musicians, artists or film makers, that would not survive without one another.


As I’ve often said to those who know me, ‘creativity breeds insanity’ and it is only those of us with creative souls who can understand the complexity and the ongoing struggle in some ways, to have the world understand your vision and embrace you.


Fame and glory may never arrive until an artist is long dead, but the vision and the meaning behind that vision will be a legend. All you have to do is be open to looking for it.


Music as Evolution: Spinning the Soundtrack to Life

If you stopped someone on the street and asked him why he liked a particular song, there’s a higher likelihood that the response you’d get would simply be something along the lines of “because I do.”

Unfortunately, I’ve found a limited number of people who actually spend time thinking about why they enjoy the music they do, let alone someone who is willing to talk about it. Music for me is not just about listening to notes and lyrics as entertainment.

Music is about each beat, the rhythm, the movement and the way the actual sound makes you feel. Music is a collaboration of the artist’s instruments, beats and lyrics all united for a single purpose: to tell a story. The story can be humorous, tragic or inspirational, but it’s this combination of elements that I look for in a good song.

A good song can entertain you; a great song can make you feel alive. With a potent mixture of fantastic instruments playing notes of the right fit, the correct beat allowing you to feel as though your footfalls match the same, and lyrics that speak to your heart, a great song can be the greatest high you can ever experience, greater than any drug you can find.

Above all, a good song is a true testament to the artist’s ability, for those who write their own songs, it tests their ability as producers to find and arrange the correct class of instruments, as songwriters, not only to find exquisite lyrics that will convey the story they wish to tell, but above all, to find the correct flow of notes onto the sheets.

To truly immerse yourself in the music is to ask yourself each time you listen to a song; what is the artist trying to say, what message are they trying to make sure you understand, and how does it make you feel? Are you able to connect with the picture the lyrics paint in your mind, does it relate to your life and your experiences?

Over the years, from Michael Jackson to Evanescence, I’ve encountered a lot of music, from all genres across the board that I would deem to be songwriting and producing perfection. The tireless hours, blood, sweat and tears that a competent artist spends on his/her or their craft cannot be made up for by manufactured so-called ‘image’ music.

What I refer to as ‘image’ music refers to the names and the celebrities attached to the art of songwriting, those who make more money in sponsorship deals and tabloid headlines. There are those, without naming names, who ride the coattails of their parents, or on their images of being sex symbols in order to sell their records.

Quite frankly, the state of much of the music industry of the 21st century disgusts me, and I choose instead to listen to artists that the majority of their music does not receive mainstream airplay. For those artists, it is not about image, it is about blood and tears, and a God-given talent to place what they feel, what they think and what they’ve experienced that they can’t forget, onto the page. What airplay they receive comes from niche stations and publicity off official websites, social networking sites and fan generated appreciation.

It is these artists that create the soundtrack that is my everyday life. Each note from a guitar, drum or cello brings inspiration; each word paints poetic ideals in my mind. Much of what they share with the world I have also felt in my life.

I feel as though my relationship with music and song comes full circle. The artist(s) shares his/her or their vision with the world, their thoughts, feelings, experiences and inspiration, and in turn it is inspiration for me to write my own interpretation of their words and the pictures they paint.

The soundtrack of my life does indeed have different artists from genres I would have never previously taken an interest in, but each one serves as inspiration and serves to melt reality and make ideas that much sharper in my mind.

Music is something that can lift you higher than you’ve ever been before and yet simultaneously bring you back down to earth when it’s over. Music is the only thing in this world that I believe continually is being re-interpreted and re-invented and that lasts through all ages.

For every manufactured tabloid image in the music industry, there are those who spend years of blood, poverty, tears and pain to achieve even moderate success. And it is to them that I send a salute and let them know to continue honing their craft because there will always be one person drawing inspiration from their exceptional abilities.