Enjoy our second post in our new blog series, "Gardy in the Gallery" where Gardy Loo staff members write about their experiences visiting the on-campus gallery ArtWorks. This piece is from the "Internal Dialogues" show that ran from Feb. 6 to Feb. 17 of 2017.
See the World with New Eyes
Thread on film on Canvas. Film on paint on plastic. Oils on wood. Intaglio prints. Fabric arts. Paper-cuts. Truly monumental ceramic pieces. Vulnerable portraits, comic-book dogs, eyes and feathers, bright and happy characters that I’m being told are monsters.
I’m not an artistic person. At least, I don’t call myself an “artist”. Artists work with clays and oils and paints, all of which I’m borderline useless at handling. Making and fixing and arranging words doesn’t make an artist, it makes something else. It’s for this reason that I grab a cup of lemonade and spend most of this gallery opening hiding from actual artists. I don’t know what I’d say. I’m so far out of my element—words—that my element has abandoned me completely. And it’s better to stay quiet than to say something that won’t immediately be praised as witty. At least, for me, it is.
It’s a new experience for me, the visual arts. It’s remarkable for me to be going into this gallery, knowing full-well that my interpretation isn’t being guided. This isn’t like looking at art in class, where my professors swoop in to save me and tell me what the art means and what it adds to and says about my words and books that I care so much about and cling to so hopelessly.
Even now, when I’m confronted by so much visual stimuli, I’m trying to find the words. I’m reading artists’ plaques and Freud quotes to try and glean what it is I’m supposed to be looking for. But words can’t help you see—not really. Words help you to listen, but art is all about seeing. It’s a different way of understanding, and it’s not one I’m particularly comfortable with.
Once I thought about this distinction of words and art and hearing and looking and listening and seeing, as well as the title of the gallery, I started to understand the point of the art I was looking at. My job, as the gallery-goer, was to try and see what the artists see—understand what matters to them.
You see, we all pick up things across our lifetimes. If our dad is an optometrist, as is the case for one of the artists in the exhibit, then we pick up the image of eyes—scientifically, forensically, emotionally, symbolically. We create worlds and characters in our heads. We find the monsters that aren’t really monsters and the dogs that are almost human. We recognize the vulnerability of ourselves in our friends and others. Every person picks up something different on their way through life, from the highly-imaginative and ephemeral to the emotional, real, raw state of existence.
Seeing the world through these artists’ eyes is only a matter of looking. I have a new appreciation for the openness of artists. With wordsmiths and novelists, we hide behind themes and characters and witticisms. Artists are far more open than that, far more fearless, showing us smiles and bullet-holes. It’s so easy to see the pain and the happiness and the thoughts they have and have had and will continue to have. I will admit, it’s easy and comfortable to hide behind stammering iterations of, “Oh, well, I don’t really understand art.”
But I would argue that it’s far easier to just look and see what artists are showing you.
All images courtesy of JMU SADAH. Used with permission. To view the full album, visit their Flickr. To learn more about ArtWorks or view the exhibit schedule, visit their website.