Sunday, July 08, 2007

Artspeak

Art is a language. From now on when I tell people what language I speak, I will respond "Artspeak". Thinking about Gombrich's point about how each of us has images that words conjure up. I can say chair and you might see a different chair from me. When I teach and when I paint, I attempt to turn off that part of the brain that names. It gets in the way. If I say chair, I am no longer looking at the chair in front of me, but "chairness" as I know it. But if I forget the word, or rather put it aside, I can see the object in front of me, the shapes, the lines, for what it is. The Egyptians wrote in images and that is what art is, a return to our ancestry. Not necessarily Egyptian, mind you, but something much more primitive.

Words are wonderful and beautiful in what they can express, but they are limited. Limited in a way that my paint colors are limited to describe the colors and values in the visual world. If I show you something though, then I am showing you show much more than what one word can describe. I'm showing you the world as I see it, as I want you to see it, and you see it as you interpret the world around you according to who you are, the schema inside your head and the emotions you attach to the objects you see. So much more information is implied there. When I create a painting I think about, not just the objects, but what I am saying with the objects, what is my story. In fact, I see myself not as a painter, but as a visual storyteller. The story is mine, but it is also yours.

Coming from America, my current painting, that I'm referring to "Chilli" for the moment, has different connotations than perhaps in another country, Mexico for example, though that is perhaps not so different given our rich mix of Mexican community. I grew up with Mexicans in California so I don't start thinking right away of Texas chili, so there is the local interpretation also. Point is, there are multiple layers in what I'm saying, it's not just about the chili, the food, but what it means to you, what it reminds you of, the smells and emotions you connect with it. That's one of the reasons I'm doing this series on food/cooking. First, because it has a connection in my life, I love to cook.

Food is a big part of my life, not less so for having married a Frenchman. Living in France made me realize even more the connections we make with food, and with one another through food. It is yet another creative process and in a way I'm attempting to marry the two, painting and cooking. In fact, I've become a better cook since I became a painter. Something about the process of intuition and putting things together. Before, I was completely ruled by my recipe books. Little by little, I changed recipes and now I just look at stuff, and think about how it will taste together and the colors mix.

Cooking with a Moroccan friend, I learned a different way of combining tastes and that influences my food. Now cinnamon, nutmeg, and curry play together in my chicken dishes, as well as others. Her language has become mixed up in my language of food. Maybe that's where we've gone wrong, in trying to understand each other, different cultures, different beliefs, we've all defined it into words that, instead of being diplomatic, become weapons. Perhaps we've identified the wrong tools of mass destruction. But then, tools are weapons only depending on the wielder of them. I can use a hammer to hit a nail or I can use it to destroy an object. Images are the same. Will we ever understand one another? I suppose nothing is simple for us humans. In the meantime I go on speaking a language that I am also learning, hoping that I am telling you something, a secret, a feeling, a taste, a place. Let's meet on the canvas in the world without words.

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