Why is That there? by Mickey Hoffman

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


Filed under Travel, writing

7 responses to “Why is That there? by Mickey Hoffman

  1. Rod Marsden

    I once asked an artist about Blue Poles. It is a painting as famous as it is infamous and it resides in the Sydney opera house. Me? I think it is just so many swirls and splotches. It might make good wallpaper design but that’s about it. My artist friend said it was a masterpiece because not even the artist who did it could possible do it again in the exact same way. Well, it has more than doubled in price since it was first purchased from America way back in the ’70s so I suppose that says something. I like Paul Klee’s neo-primitive art but only in color. Does a painting or a drawing need to mean something? Well I would say it either needs to mean something or to convey some kind of emotion for it to be on the cover of a book. My thoughts at any rate.

  2. I like the analogy of writing and art. Seems like part of the joy is that readers and viewers both bring and find something of their own.

  3. You make good points, Mickey. I never cared who authors were (except as a means of finding similar stories), why they wrote what they did, or if the books had any meaning other than that which I brought to them. I used to enjoy reading so much more when I saw books as something separate from the author, something that existed in its own right. Then the publishers started putting the author’s name above the title, the author became more important than the work, and books were demoted from art to commodity.

  4. I’ve seen abstract paintings that grab me and many that don’t. What they “mean” to me is probably different from what the same thing would mean to you. That is what makes creativity so interesting. We make something and it communicates a whole range of things on visual, emotional and intellectual levels. We still look at art made centuries ago, read books written centuries ago. What we see now is different from what people saw then.

    Someone gave me an “annotated” Alice in Wonderland once. I never read it. Did I have to know the math puzzles behind Lewis Carroll’s writing? An art history teacher once announced to our class that Picasso did a whole batch of paintings in brown because he’d just visited the south of France. I guess you can make up whatever you like and if you have some credentials, people will accept it as the truth.

  5. Pingback: Who Gets to Define What is Art? « Bertram's Blog

  6. Yes, I frequently get asked why I write what I do. My sister is one that would love to know the math puzzles behind Lewis Carroll’s writing. Not me. I like investigating, but not that kind.

    You’re etching is wonderful. My first thought was the cat is the mirror image of the statue.

  7. Rod Marsden

    I reread the two Alice books recently and I found them inspiring even though, admittedly, I hated math when I was a kid and, as an adult, only have a grudging respect for it. I have seen the illustrations of the original Alice books. They were pretty wild for their day.

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