This is part of a series of art and writings I started years ago and now just uplifting online. It’s part of the “I don’t Understand Art and Other Social Confusions” series.
One of my most favorite forms of art is surrealism.
If you don’t understand art, and your mind starts to fog up with the word, let’s get to this real quick. It’s simple. Keep it simple.
Surrealism is painting, writing or drawing a dream – or just something that might be in a dreamlike state. Paranormal. Or drunken stupor if you prefer. Craziness. Not the reality we live in normally. It’s painting something that isn’t real. Art doesn’t have to be a masterpiece. It doesn’t have to *look* like a mirrored replica of the world. You can play.
Imagine taking your latest dream you woke up remembering and putting it on canvas. Instead of telling someone the dream you had, you act it out, videotape it, draw or paint it. Things don’t have to make sense in dreams and they don’t have to with art either. Things don’t always have to make sense or tell a story. You can just enjoy the activity.
Some people like to create meanings from their dreams.
It’s fun. It’s an experience like solving a puzzle or playing a game with the intent of achieving a goalie – an succeeded accomplishment. How serious you take it depends on your preference to do so.
I think people who like surrealism, enjoy imagination and haven’t learned to be afraid of it. But it can be even more fun when you can create a dream instead of just have one.
When I paint, I just have one!
I allow it to happen, unfold, spontaneously and then try to make some sense out of it later. When it makes sense that I didn’t make, I find it amazing! I think life is like that. I think We have limited conscious minds and infinite unconsciousness about stuff we don’t know. Sometimes I do have something deliberate in mind or meanings emerge, but it doesn’t really matter to me if I do or not. Sometimes a poem and words comes with my painting and I paint words on canvas. Sometimes a painting comes with a story intact. I have these in my collection.
But I LOVE when people make their own sense out of a painting and show me something I would have never thought of in my own painting. I’ve had people tell me what my paintings are about. Just as long as they don’t declare to have the meaning for everyone! We all have different viewpoints and experiences we bring to what we see and do. And I love it because it’s more exploration and possibilities! You see, there doesn’t have to be some official meaning. The One meaning fits all and the wise king of the hill declares truth for everyone so he can be admired for his intellect. That’s not what i’ve been aiming at.
Women in art had different ideas and taught me that paintings don’t have monomeanings and historically, white, Eurocentric (Europe centered) men with their art got some issue of being authority that many women don’t. In fact, I have a hard time being authority when I have actually have some. And it’s not just difference in women and men, but people overall. We all do things with different motivations in mind and emotional satisfactions at heart.
Images are mobile these days and can serve endless purposes. Historically, a painting stayed in one place and became part of the environment. It’s different now. You can’t get it *wrong* when you are just playing and having fun, either. People having dreams aren’t worried about being wrong unless that’s actually part of the dream sequence. So many people are afraid of being *wrong* in viewing art, or are afraid of the unknown, or worse, afraid of doing it and exposing something of themselves. A flaw or make a mistake. It’s from all those teachers for years with their grading scheme. You might get an F and be humiliated. Forget that. I turn my F into R’s and A’s and E’s easily. You just add some more lines. Mistakes become the seeds for where something grows.
I feel fortunate that I actually advanced in my art exploration and had the opportunity to do surrealist work. It wasn’t a plan. None of my art in life was a plan. I didn’t plan to be an artist. It just was there as an opportunity when I was bored or not sure what else to do.
But You don’t know if you can do something until you give it a try. I wasn’t even trying. It kind of just emerged under the right conditions of freedom -and lack of freedom in my life- like a dream come true out of a nightmare. But I didn’t dream of being an artist. No. Truth be told I dreamt of being a singer and musician and was too scared to even whisper that to myself. You see, The conditions to have some freedom in there and lack of fear is of major importance. The real choice with art was I chose to not live being afraid. I let it happen. I faced and erased my fears. Well, lots of them. Big ones. Now Karaoke, well, I haven’t quite conquered that one yet. Maybe some day.
It was a really good thing that I didn’t just stop learning and doing art after high school. I did for awhile, actually, when I still had beliefs that as a girl I was only suppose to be a mother and wife, and not a child hating, career woman feminist that God would put to hell for sure! Thank God I outgrew that and some of us stopped that nonsense! But that’s what I did and went through and got busy with the usual responsibilities of being an adult – somewhat lost. And that’s fine, too. But art found me anyway.
I love to learn because I love to explore new things. I am a different kind of explorer. Not the kind we normally think of as explorers – sailing the ocean, going to Mars, climbing a mountain. Still, I have explored in places that in our world today are rarely touched. Some of those places aren’t even conceptualized as an area of life that could be a place of exploration. It’s normally called pioneering. Going some place people haven’t trampled through.
High school art classes didn’t do much to help me grasp what surrealism is. My true understandings of art grew out of the failings and limitations of classes about art as I learned from experience – my own experience. Some artists believe you can’t learn or teach art, you just have to do it then you learn what it is.
Sometimes school makes art needlessly mysterious because the obvious is often not explained. Sometimes art is like air. It’s all around us in everything. Yet how How do you explain the nothingness that air is while it’s everywhere? You don’t. You know best by experiencing it and sometimes all you need to be told is to breathe.
Many young minds leave the art room as quickly as possible, intimidated on one hand thinking they don’t have talent. (usually before age 10 – unbelieveable, right? What other subjects do kids in large numbers decide they can’t learn and quit before age 10) They quit before they start before they give themselves a chance to learn comparing themselves to *the masters* (master/slave?) and on the other hand, they zone out mentally on the topic, high tailing it , claiming the much, overused phrase, “I don’t understand art- I have no interest in it.”
If the art world seems kind of bogus, well, it is because some of it is. But not all of it.
Let me say this. There is widespread misunderstandings about art and it’s not just you. Some people actually think it’s their own fault or inability in understanding art… or their lack of IQ. Some people even believe they themselves are just stupid. Like calculus they think art is too difficult to understand. Too difficult for them to do. But I disagree. It just needs simple explanations that are missing.
It’s who taught us and their misunderstandings and failings too. Sometimes those misunderstandings are really about people, not art. Misunderstandings about elite groups of people and their behaviors versus inferior, common people – as if circumstances make us different people rather than the same people with different circumstances and things. Misunderstandings about money and material wealth accumulation and a simple how we got here is definitely a part of misunderstandings about art. But that’s another article.
For now, i want to share the definition of surrealism that has hung on my refrigerator for years. It is from a postcard; Surrealism by Keith Bates.
Surrealism n. 1 the youthful expression of dreamlike spontaneity which daily life conspires to suppress. 2 a state of mind embracing unconscious, poetic juxtaposition which is eroded by responsibility. 3 You pursue the terrible beauties of fear and hope. Your friends can not help you.
It’s fitting. I do want my friends to help me though!
Most people prefer my photorealistic work because it is understandable. It’s like a photograph that I’ve drawn or painted. Well, it really is. It looks like what you see around you in life in precise details. We’ve learned to value art in such precision as if it is most valuable that way because it copies life exactly. This is what intimidates and scares people away from art if they can’t do it. But this skill was important and valuable when there was no other way to make a copy of life. No camera. No video. No xerox. No mimigraph machine. No phone. However, with our new technologies, paintings and drawings aren’t needed to mirror and copy life. Cameras do that faster and easier.
150 years ago when the camera was invented, art took to the strangeness that many people today don’t understand most because artists could explore and they just gave fancy words to their explorations that get taught to students. Artists really had lost their jobs and were no longer needed to do the copying of real life. Xerox took over.
But traditions are hard to break and let go of. And art had already became a symbol and commodity of wealthy ownership so it got pushed into extreme manifestations. Sometimes Owning art can be no different than owning a Porsche. For some people, it’s just for show and with hope the investment doubles or more in profit. Certainly, it’s not that people don’t still enjoy the talent, the beauty, inspiration and humanness that goes with the drawing and paintings can have. It’s just that today it’s a choice. There are many choices.
Many people don’t know what to do with surrealistic work. That’s okay too. But I wanted to share an opportunity. The opportunity to explore life in a place that isn’t so mysterious as it seems. Take a look at these two images I created and give it time, and then come back. I’m going to post later and walk you through looking at the process I went through and my thoughts on the paintings. Better yet, don’t do that! Just comment away and tell me what thoughts you have! I guarantee I’ll love it if you do.