The Wide Angle: It’s okay. I don’t get it either

Published 12:37 pm Sunday, September 11, 2016

I’m an artist.

No, wait am I? Yeah, I guess for the sake of this column I am, even though I never really pursued the profession of artist.

It feels pretentious to really make that proclamation. I mean, I can consider myself an artist in what I do, but whether others consider me one, that’s entirely different ball of wax.

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I suppose a case can be made for my position as photographer, but I don’t really consider myself one in that avenue either. I’ve never really displayed my pictures as art and normally one doesn’t consider press conferences as art unless there is something I’m missing.

However I see myself, it doesn’t do well to disguise the one flaw I have: I don’t understand a lot of art.

I was thinking about this one day when I was thinking (or probably overthinking) about a current project at home.

In my spare time — whenever that is — I’ve taken a pretty serious interest in photo manipulation and illustration. In short, it’s taking stock images and combining them to form different images. My forum is usually fantasy and space prints and thus things are pretty straight forward.

Neat looking planet, vast cosmos, moons and stars galore. There isn’t much to understand. Hopefully you look at my images and think they are pretty cool.

So when I look at more complicated works (translation: abstract) I find I don’t know what I think. And maybe that’s the artist’s intent, though it just seems more like the intent was to confuse me.

Trust me, this is going to be something, but just in case, let’s call it abstract.

Trust me, this is going to be something, but just in case, let’s call it abstract.

When I was young — 12, 13 maybe — my mom, in what I saw as a desperate attempt to make me cultured, took me to the Walker Art Institute. The visit has stayed with me to this day, though not for the reasons I thought.

From the very moment we walked in I was lost, never really understanding what made any of it art. Granted, to ask a 12-year-old to plum the depths of a bed spring with tools welded throughout might have been a bit much to ask.

Though thinking back, the 41-year-old version of me still doesn’t understand a lot of it.

I suppose “getting it” might have been so easy as liking the pretty shapes and nifty colors.

Still, my mom and I wandered through the exhibits, mom looking with the pained expression of a person trying to give it a chance and me wildly wishing for a bull to come charging through.

There were some pretty neat, breakable things in there.

I can remember people — probably a lot more refined than myself — studying the pieces, hands to chins, thoughtfully digging through the aspects of each piece. Some even nodded from time to time, giving the impression that perhaps they tested and solved the enigma.

Or, they were falling asleep. Even money.

Two pieces still stand out to me as I confusingly look back. A city made out of pillows, hanging from the ceiling and a paint can, nailed to the wall with paint cascading down the wall, gifting us with the effect of … um, paint splashed on a wall … I guess.

Just … don’t … get it.

I would like to believe there is something meaningful there, but I still can’t get past the idea that some poor painter was painting the walls, spilled the paint and thought, “If I nail the empty can to the wall, they will never know. Bam! Art!”

Regardless, the impact — other than the urge to never return — has stayed with me.

It’s hard for me to truly criticize another’s work, knowing I still have much to learn myself. And that I have problems drawing stick figures.

You wouldn’t think that would be a problem. After all, it’s a few straight lines and a circle. How hard can that be?

Really hard apparently.

I try to sketch out my projects these days because otherwise I try to go directly off my own mind’s eye. The problem becomes that I have a great imagination. A fantastic imagination, except rarely does anything come out like it does, which makes my mind a dirty liar.

I don’t mean to insult those artists who delve into the abstract. They work hard and, yes, there are those out there that can appreciate the pieces.

So maybe I can’t judge. Maybe I should time travel back to 12-year-old me and tell me to stop being a little tool.

And wake up.