THE PERILS OF ART CRITICISM
So, one of the famous local artists around here is Marvin Humphrey, who is currently having an October show at the local library, and I happened to be at the library while he was installing his exhibit. That's where I first saw -- and of course I had to get it for Galatea since what am Moi but a chatelaine?! -- a small painting called "Spanglish"! Here it is -- and I'm sure you need not be a poet to get and appreciate the pun:
Okay. So what's wrong with the above painting? [INSERT A FEW SECONDS AS 9 BILLION PEEPS LOOK AT THE IMAGE AND TRY TO FIGURE OUT WHAT'S WRONG WITH SAID PAINTING]
What's "wrong" is that Mr. Humphrey, a realist master painted the key perfectly vertical when, if it was hanging like that from a non-centered hole, the key would hang slanted.
Now, of course I saw the error right away because I've got an eye (blind though it is). But I initially thought it a brilliant choice, for several reasons:
1) Re. the painting's title of "Spanglish" which refers to a combo of Spanish and English: Spanglish is pure on its own but imperfect as Spanish or English. So I thought the imperfect purity of the vertical (versus the realistic slant) to be appropriate.If I were writing a piece of art criticism, I'd no doubt mention the above two points. While interesting, though, they would have been erroneous. One of the advantages of seeing the artist hanging his display is the ability to go talk to him. So, I approached Mr. Humphrey who also cheerfully allowed his pic to be taken:
2) AQUI is the painted word, which means HERE. Of course it's also a sonar pun to A KEY. I thought the vertical positioning created emphasis: A KEY RIGHT HERE! Emphasis, I thought, would be diluted by the realistic slant, compared to the vertical which is a key standing at attention, if you will.
And so I asked the artist about the positioning of the key in "Spanglish." He, kinda sheepishly, looked at me and said he simply made a mistake. He didn't realize until he finished his painting that he "should have painted it slanted." So much for my brilliant art criticism! Sometimes, a cigar is just a cigar ...!
But of course if I were writing an art essay, I'd still expound expansively on my two points, even if I were to mention the artist's position. Because there is an artist's position, and then there is the art work's position. And sometimes -- not all the time; just sometimes -- it's the viewer who must speak on behalf of the work. This is a lesson, that is needless to say for my sophisticated readers but I tend to belabor, that also applies to poetry. Besides, as regards this particular painting, who knows the key better than a chatelaine...?!