Thursday, January 14, 2010

Exaggerated Art

I really loved my high school art classes.  I considered myself a fairly decent drawer (someone who draws, not something you put clothes into), and I liked my teacher a lot.  In his class, we spent a lot of time analyzing paintings and photographs, trying to understand the meaning and voice of the artist. It turns out that I was pretty good at it, mainly because I would just take my first impression that I had of the work and totally blow it out of proportion and view the entire meaning of the work in that first, fleeting impression.

For instance, during a Klausur (the German equivalent of a final exam) I remember there was a photograph we were supposed to analyze. It was a photo of some field workers, bent over some spinach, harvesting it (almost like the one above, but not quite).  The photograph was taken from ground level, from the spinach's point of view.  My first impression was that the workers looked like Godzilla or some other huge, dispassionate creature bent on destroying me (I was the spinach) and my kind.  I laughed at this thought and wrote my paper explaining my first impression and then going on and on about the tyranny of the workers and how "we" are just exploited, and then related that to how the artist must have felt towards government or society.  My teacher thought this was a fabulous explanation and gave me a 1 (equivalent of an A+) on the test.  I thought it was funny because I was just making stuff up. Well, I wasn't really making it up--I was just exaggerating my initial feeling to it's fullest extent. It made me wonder if that is how real art critics work.

I have another type of example of this, but in a different medium: reading aloud.  As Katie and most of my family can attest to, I tend to mumble when I speak. When I usually read out loud, I skip over words or misread them, mumbling as I go, making it difficult to understand what I am saying. I don't really notice this myself when I read aloud. I sound just fine to me, but that's probably because I know what I'm saying.  In my English class in high school, my teacher asked someone with a loud voice to read a poem for the class.  I raised my hand and tried to read it as dramatically and obnoxiously as possible, thinking that would be funny, but after I read it my teacher and other students were impressed with my reading.  Some said I should go into radio or do the morning announcements over the loud speaker.  No one thought I was doing it as a joke.  But then I learned the secret to reading poetry out loud: try to be as obnoxious as possible.

I think the main problem that people have with any form of art is that they inhibit themselves, mainly because they are worried about social things. They don't want to stand out. But that is, in effect, the main key for success in the arts: standing out, being distinctive, prominantly striking at obscurity.  That takes a lot of guts and self-confidence.


Kathy Haynie said...

I really like your last paragraph, about the importance of art to help us see--or express--feelings or ideas in ways that stand out. But you sure have funny examples! :)

Patricia said...

Love your writing! I also love your drawings, especially since I can't do either very well. I do love to read aloud, though. Especially if I really get to dramatize the story!
Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us!

Lisa Lou said...

Have you ever been to a high school or community play and the best actors to watch are the ones that are overly dramatic? The ones just going along and not really getting into it are boring and/or really awkward. So, I've learned a lot from that.