Once, when I was working in the cooperative art gallery in my hometown, a married couple that collects my artwork told me a story that has stayed with me for years.
The husband was not a practicing artist, but he went to art school and has a deep love and appreciation for art. In school he was taught that artwork with “words written on it” was not real art. He was taught that real art should be expressive in itself, not needing words to describe the artist’s message. In short, it was a cop-out to write on a painting. In art school no one ever put words on their paintings or pottery, or any other creative projects, he said. The thought of doing that actually filled him with shame.
For years, he and his wife held strong to this belief and would dismiss any original art with writing on it, of any sort. In their minds, words meant the artist wasn’t good enough to create work that spoke on it’s own.
Then, they came into the artist’s cooperative where my artwork hangs and something happened. When they first saw my artwork his wife loved it, but he immediately turned away. Words. But it turns out that my artwork spoke to them, words and all. They changed their minds.
They discovered that my artwork had meaning, vibrancy, authenticity- they felt a strong connection in looking at my work- an unwritten message. It meant something to them, even though much of my artwork has words, phrases or sentences written into the paintings. It was the first time, he said, that they stood back and questioned this long held belief.
I never went to art school. I am a teacher and counselor by training. Listening to his story made me realize how my art-school-less education has given me freedom to create without any rules around what makes art good/bad or real/not real. I was over come with gratitude for the round about path I made to my life’s passion.
I make art that comes from my heart, and I buy art that touches my heart. I fill my home with art that speaks to me- words or not.