Friday, April 11, 2008

Eye of the beholder

A group of writers recently discussed the responses they get to their fiction writing. Apparently some readers believe that they can see the author in her work. By looking at the elements brought together, the theme, the character's quirks and hearts they can piece together the mind behind the fiction.

We all had to chuckle a bit about that. We don't often know just where some ideas or character traits comes from when we write them down, let alone trace them to make a psychological profile of the author from it. Same with any artist, I suppose. You see a Monet and think, "That guy has control issues. He creates one dot at a time. Obsessive compulsive? He likes the color blue, what does that mean. Or he uses water lilies a lot is that a Freudian thing with water and women?"

Or van Gogh -- can we see his troubled psyche in his work? We think so because we have pieced together the man's history with his paintings and we perhaps write into his work more than we can actually see? Salvador Dali, what was in his head that caused him to paint with such a unique perspective?

In my own writings of fiction, I pull on my likes and dislikes, experiences, information I've picked up along the way, snapshots of other lives, people I've known, read about, wished for, and what if. Much of my fiction is simply synchronicity. Some I can trace back to certain thoughts or perceptions or even people, but most everything is a collage or assemblage of everything my brain has ever taken in or imagined. What is imagination -- is it simply what we know or is it taking what we know a step further into the unknown?

Well, collage of words for writers, an assemblage of images for collage artists. I look at the exhibit at Bakers Dozen and my writers mind begins to whirl and question. Why bring these together? What is the statement the artist is making? Wouldn't that make an interesting story? And the fabric side of my brain kicks in and I start seeing the collage as fabric art and then I must bring these images to you to view for yourselves. Denise Enslen's image (to the right) certainly speaks of games, chance, gambling, taking a risk, deciding your next move, strategy. Or it could be a grouping of icons when you think of the origins of chess and cards, this speaks of a history and all of the stories that brought those games into being or all of those games played through the ages. Chess and war. Kings and Queens and feudal systems. Monopoly and corporate greed or trying to sell your home in today's real estate chaos. Chips and money and what people have done for money, or what it contributes to the human condition. Did the collage artist think of these things while laying pieces together? Often not. It is the viewer who finds depths even the artist didn't envision.

Assemblage is defined as "a sculptural technique of organizing or composing into a unified whole a group of unrelated and often fragmentary or discarded objects." Like synchronicity unrelated events conspire to come together into something new, revealing, thought-provoking and awe-inspiring.

My friend Carol Melichar, (photo of her work is above left), offers a collage that a fabric artist might easily duplicate. And like readers of fiction, I am wondering what was going on in her mind when she made this. We always want to understand not only the work, but the artist and the process.

We protest that we aren't in our work. We aren't killers if we write mysteries, or psychotic if our characters are crazy. Yet fiction writers look at a creation and search for the creator, too. And much to our chagrin often we see revealed more than we ever suspected. But I think that's a good thing. The things we cannot say or express any other way comes through in our art and binds us together on a higher level of understanding. There is no greater high than finding something new in a poem or piece of art whether it be paper, fabric, oils, sculpture. ... Whatever the medium, even a child's finger painting.

When it speaks we hear angel voices -- or maybe a devil or two, too.

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