Thursday, July 14, 2016

Spokane as a Place for Inspiration: Art, What is it Good For?

Now, most people don't think inspiration when they think on Spokane. But it can provide those moments where the mind can wander. [1] Recently, I went out to buy some milk, and instead I found myself wandering some second story gallery. It held some amazing pieces, and when compared to the plethora of realistic or impressionistic pieces I've seen in the area, it was a breath of fresh air. 

The pieces seemed like cities unto themselves: the paintings and the sculptures. Each one was filled with millions of brushstrokes. I wasn't certain, but there seemed to be sections and within each section more sections: of dots or shapes or lines or curves or what have you. Even the sculptures seemed to have this effect, even if you stepped back and saw a person, closer examination always showed an entirely different story: a small group marching through a snow storm, another showing a couple in love, yet another simply showing leaves in fall, or the rolling sine waves of the Palouse hills. And all this was shown through curves pieces of metal or clay or some other media. Simply put, each one was a universe.

None of this was done in some sort of hodge podge way. It was not as if it was a mural. No, it was simply part of the DNA of each piece. This alone was an impressive, as each subset was something that was impressed. 

Much less impressive was when I met the artist's mother: you see the artist has an affliction that did not allow them in public, or out of a room, and the mother was busy touting the work. I'm afraid to say that when she started to explain each piece to me—the thought process that went into each one—my middle class bearings spoke up and a distaste for each arose.

See, she told me about one painting, where, after a police shooting, the artist cut the newspaper clippings, then the printed out statements of almost every internet comment on the incident and pasted it onto this large (20'x20') canvas to serve as the background. Then, after drawing lines to connect some of the words and similar sentiments, the artist then filled in the sections (from the lines) with different shapes. The kind of shape, the color and the number of them all came down to statistics the artist found about the incident (from total shootings like this one, to the number of the said gun in the world etc etc). Even placement of said symbol was considered only after a statistic was informed. 

And the shape to statistic relationship, though it changed every piece, was also based on how much the artist felt that statistic applied to the overall situation. The more it played a part, the larger or more complex the shape. Dots, for example, were related to the range of said police department's weight (found online). 

This is an interesting method and yet I still did not care for it. I think it has to do with the fact that I've always learned and treated data and art as two separate things. And even though computers have made data more beautiful, it has usually been so that we can understand data better. To hide data in this odd way, was too much for me. 

I left the mother after she had finished explaining herself, annoyed that I had fallen in love with art that had such an unconventional methodology. As I walked back and felt some self-hatred for hating it just based on how it was created (what did I know about art), I still managed to retain most of my revulsion for the pieces. 

Nevertheless, even that revulsion was enough to write a story. Art is a funny thing. So is writing.

[1] Important for that next book to come out, isn't it?

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