The Right Way to Experience Art… or something equally tongue-in-cheek

I love art… in theory. I mean, I’m not up on my current rock stars of the art world or anything, but I appreciate the talent and vision that artists have. I can look at a painting and consider what the artist was trying to convey. I can stand before a sculpture and infuse its intended meaning with my own interpretation and insight. An art gallery is, for me, a place of introspection as much as it is a place of culture and the human experience.

This past month, I had the rare opportunity to attend a fundraising event for one of our local art galleries. Station Gallery in Whitby, Ontario is free to the public. It seeks to exhibit emerging Canadian artists along with the aforementioned rock stars of the art world. At a time in my province’s history where sweeping and hard-hitting cuts are being made to arts and education – and particularly arts education – in the public school system by a recently elected government seeking to establish conservative reform, Station Gallery offers off-site and onsite programs to those cash-strapped and under-supported teachers that still want to provide a comprehensive arts education to their students.

Photo Credit: Station Gallery

When we’re talking about fundraising for a national gallery at hundreds of dollars a plate, it is understandable if we think of stuffy, gray-haired rich people. But when we’re talking an accessible, community-minded public service like Station Gallery, any and every contribution is more than justified.

This fundraiser was unique (and a hell of a lot of fun). Here’s how it worked: a single ticket was admission for two people to a catered evening with a cash bar. Each ticket also served as a ballot entry which, over the course of the evening, were drawn one by one. When your ballot was called, you had five minutes to drop what you were doing, wherever you were in the gallery, and high-tail it up to the MC to name your choice from amongst more than a hundred donated works of art. Your choice was your piece of original artwork to take home. Simple. Brilliant.

My night at Station Gallery was a blur of frenzy and anticipation, where I balanced on the edge of giddiness as I waited for my ballot to be called. Would the pieces I had identified as ones I’d like to own be chosen before it was my turn? What if there were several pieces that I liked still available by the time my ballot was called? Which would I choose?

17. Freeflow
“Freeflow” by Darryl Thorogood

I went home that night with a piece entitled “Freeflow,” created by a local artist named Darryl Thorogood.

Here’s the thing: “Freeflow” is in a style called Environmental Surrealism, and I have no idea what that means. I chose it because I thought it was cool. When I look at it, it reminds me of water moving through the centre of an iceberg, and I take from it that, no matter how desolate and unyielding things may seem, there is always life and hope to be found somewhere. You just have to look deep enough to find it.

Other interpretations in the Bale household when the painting was mounted on our walls:

“It looks like a centipede.”

“It’s supposed to be turned the other way. Those dots are drips and they should be going down.”

“It looks like The Wall from Game of Thrones. Here’s a magic marker; draw Jon Snow in there.”

It was a great end to a great night, because our bickering and disagreement and vastly different suggestions reminded me that there is no “right” way to interpret art. The artist may have intended one thing, whereas we may see another. But that’s okay. Art is, after all, an expression of humanity. The interpretation of it is also an expression of humanity. And no one human experience is the same as another.

That is, in essence, what I love about books – both the reading and the writing of them. When I am writing, I pull from my own life experience to make the characters real. Someone who reads my story will interpret it through the filter of their life experience. The same goes for when I’m reading the work of another author. It’s a giant, infinite circle. It’s amazing when you stop to think of it, really.

More than amazing… it’s wonderful!



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