February 6, 2008

It's not important what they think....

"I like getting recognition for the work, but its much more about people just seeing it as opposed to them knowing that I'm the personality behind it . . . because I actually don't want that extra level of filtration before somebody starts to think about what it means . . . I want them to confront it and not have someone that will interpret it for them." - Shepard Fairey, creator of the ever-present Andre the Giant "Obey" logo

It's always bothered me when people try to explain art to me. I look at a piece of art, and if it is good art, it will move me, make me want to keep looking, make me want to know what it's about. But I don't want to know what the artist meant by it. I want to know what it's about to me. I want to know why it moved me. I want to know the words behind the feeling it evoked in my brain. If it makes me understand something about myself, then to me, it's a good work of art.


As I drive to work every day, I see two of the same sticker. That black and white cartoon face glares at me from a newsbox and a lightpole, respectively. As I see it, it makes me feel like a part of this city. It's everywhere I've been here and in everyone I've known here, because if I ask anyone from the city about "that black and white face sticker that's plastered everywhere," they'll know what I'm talking about. If I ask someone from the suburbs about the sculpture garden, or the Metrodome, they'll know what I'm talking about, but if that sticker is a part of your life, you are a part of the city. I've always liked that.

Reading an article about the sticker, I found out that the sticker didn't originate here, that in fact it's in cities all over the country. If someone had told me that before I had had the chance to develop my own bond with that stern graphic icon, I probably wouldn't have. It would have become something else to me. Knowing the "true" meaning of art may diminish some of those feelings, but I try to keep the original emotions present, for without those, to me, art is meaningless.


The thing I think I like the most about Andy Goldsworthy and his work is that he doesn't try to assign meanings to his art. He creates his art for himself, and leaves it, without leaving a signature. I'm sure he's thinking of a million things in the time he spends with those pieces, creating them. However, he had all the time in the world on the film to talk about that and he didn't, really. He left them as just beautiful, energized pieces of art for the world to observe. One person could look at a stone circle he created and think it looked like an eye. One could think it represented a hole in the landscape. One person might see a face. With every piece of his art, I tried to think of how I would feel if I had just come across it on a walk through the woods. I probably would have thought it was the work of a group of people, or possibly a natural phenomenon. Without a signature or explanation, art can be anything. When left out in a place where we live and are not seeking it out, it becomes a part of that place. The meadow where Goldsworthy creates a beautiful colorful display will forever be changed in the eyes and memories of anyone who goes there. The stickers, while probably unnoticed by a passerby, will forever be associated with the streets I've lived my life on here. Something simple can forever change the mood of the place.


On the sidewalk I take to get home from school, there is a peace sign carved into the concrete. Before I looked down and saw it, I thought about any number of things on that walk - homework, relationships, money troubles, etc. One day I looked down. When this very sidewalk was being created, someone drew this symbol in it and turned it from a simple path to follow to a symbol of peace to walk through. The very stone exudes a message. Now I can't walk over it without being reminded of that message, and of the connectedness I feel with the person who first changed that stone, and with all the people who probably love it and have been changed by it too. Again, I don't know if they did it to protest, or to rebel, or to share, or as a dare. I don't want to know. It's these symbols that make this city for me, and without the feelings I associate with them, I wouldn't feel the energy of being home.