Writers are sometimes asked about scenes or character actions, but in the world of visual art the questions never end. We’ve all been in an art museum where we overheard someone say, “I don’t like this modern art stuff, it makes no sense to me.” Sometimes the wall label or the catalogs have what the experts think are explanations. My very favorite label said, “Chariot fitting.” I have never figured that one out.
But do artists have to explain their work? Is it necessary for someone to read books about a writer’s life to enjoy or understand their work? Will a biography or an art historian’s research actually tell you how a creative person thought and felt?
I think most of the time only the creator knows and at times, we don’t even really know ourselves. And, to be honest, I don’t think it should matter to the reader or the viewer. I give the following example.
I took this photo in the Yun gang caves in Inner Mongolia. The art inside the caves was begun around 400 AD by Buddhist monks who walked there from India. I used the above image in the etching below:
So you’re looking now and you might be thinking, “What the ?? Why are these images together?” I see there are many possible ways to interpret my etching. Perhaps it’s something about modernization. Or maybe it’s about the copy cat clothing in China of the 1980s counterposed with repetition in the artistic shapes? Or could it be a statement about how culture traveled on foot in 400 AD but is now transmitted quickly by road, internet, etc. Do I really have to explain? Can’t you get whatever meaning you wish to get and be content? Either you like it or you don’t.
People also ask me, “Why did you write School of Lies? What made you pick the subject matter in Deadly Traffic? Do I have to answer that as well? I’m tired, folks. Tired. Please enjoy art and use it as a stepping stone for your own thoughts, your own creativity.
By the way, if you ‘d like to guess what brought me to create that etching, feel free. If you’re correct, I will let you know. And if you’re a writer, are you tired of explaining or do you think you owe it to the readers? Do they need the explanations?
Mickey Hoffman is the author of the above mystery novels. Visit her website at www.mickeyhoffman.com