On Saturday of the conference I had the incredible pleasure of meeting one of the conference presenters, Barry Taylor. It was a short, mundane conversation before his presentation, to discuss how to set up the stage for him. Nonetheless, he managed to make an impression on me. I had never heard of Barry before this event, but I found him extremely likable. (And I'm not just saying that because he has a British accent, though I'm a real sucker for accents!) He exudes a strength of heart that feels like it has seen much darkness and lived to shine on anyway. (I know almost nothing of his life story, but that was the impression I got.) His presence was so accepting, so balanced, so authentic, so mature. I hoped some of his quiet fire would rub off on me. I wished he were my uncle so I could see him every Christmas.
His presentation was unique from all the others that I saw. He wasn't painstakingly eloquent, obsequiously academic, or pretentiously anti-normal. He was just solid as a rock in being himself, and that was enough for him, so it was enough for us. He stood up there and just talked about art. Art! He admitted that he's not an art historian or anything --he just likes art. He showed us pictures from the repertoire of two of his favorite painters. It was like we were all invited into his living room, and he was showing us some of his most beloved paintings, and what they meant to him. Along the way, profound philosophical insights peppered his talk, with astuteness that took my breath away.
I must admit, I have a hard time with visual art sometimes. It can be hard to figure out how to interact with it. That's why I appreciate when someone who seems to "get it," like Barry Taylor, can come alongside and help me experience it the way it was meant to be experienced. (I probably assume too much, though, when i say "...the way it was meant to be experienced," as if there's only one acceptable way to experience a piece! Maybe I should say "...help me experience it with a depth of insight" or something like that...)
When he spoke of the shadows in Caravaggio's paintings being infused with the personalities of hundreds of other subjects (not his exact words... something to that effect), I was struck with the spirit of the art.
And his explanations of Mark Tansey's works transformed my initial confusion at the monochrome impressions into true awe for Tansey's brilliance.
When Barry juxtaposed the painting called "Doubting Thomas" by Caravaggio with "Doubting Thomas" by Tansey, I cried.
It's one thing to be touched by an artistic presentation. It's another to come to realization of a personal transformation based on that presentation. I had a very meaningful affirmation occur in me, due to Barry's presentation; to describe it, I'll need to explain a struggle I've had.
I majored in Piano Performance and Music Composition during my undergraduate degree. I thought I was going to go into an artistic career, but I've long had doubts plague me related to "my" art. (Not that I consider myself at a level to wear the label of "artist"!) On one hand, I love the high-brow world of art; I feel comfortable there, having been classically trained. On the other hand, I have a lot of low-brow in my heritage and personal experience. I write classical music, but I also write songs in a more popular vein. I've long had a hard time reconciling these energies within myself. Many people have told me I should put more efforts into being a singer-songwriter at some sort of professional level, but one (of many) internal restraints for that idea has been this stereotype from who-knows-where that singer-songwriters are not academic.
If I have any vanity in me left, it is fueled by the attempt to appear smart.
The point of art, though, from my perspective, is to create an emotional experience that moves one beyond the realm of analytic thought. Logically speaking, there doesn't have to be a problem between the two elements of being "smart" and being "emotional," of course, but for some reason, this has been an issue for me.
Barry's exposé of Tansey helped move me forward in that battle a few steps. Here is an artist who is using texts from philosophers superimposed upon each other, to create backdrops for his pieces. His works reference history, theology, sociology, philosophy. He could in no way be labeled as un-intellectual, and yet his art is still powerfully emotional. His example gives me a bit more courage to go ahead and be smart, and make art, both.
Finally, I can't explain what this has to do with anything, but Barry's presentation, for some reason, also clicked something in me. I decided to collect all the disparate areas I've spread my life out, and be unashamed about how complicated and multi-faceted I am. I've kind of been living multiple personalities and trying to keep them unaware of each other-- a singer-songwriter here with one pseudonym, a dream interpreter there with another pseydonym, my private music teaching studio here, my astrology interests there, and so on. It's almost like I have a deep belief that nobody could accept or understand me if I prove to be more than meets the eye. Or a belief that people only want to interact with 2-dimensional figures who fit their schema based on first impressions and labeling. Maybe some people want to relate to others that way, but I don't think all people do.
I don't know how this will all end up looking, but my first step in that regard has been to try to bring out the newly integrated voice of Abigail onto this blog. Stay tuned as I work it out.