On Interpretation

Published March 28, 2012 by rlmcdermott

I’ve always been a person who struggled with meaning.  Not the “meaning” of my life but what something means.  From  the time I was a kid I’ve always had to listen real hard to what people were saying–did they mean me when they said that, is there a message there for me, have I done something wrong?  It’s like I speak a different language than the rest of the world and have to filter everything through a lens that is deeply clouded.  Perhaps that is why I love music and poetry and art so much.  I don’t need to understand; I only need to feel!   As an artist, I think of my work in specific ways–drawing, mixed-media, experimental, narrative, landscape, colorful, however, because of my  own confusion about “meaning”  I don’t expect anyone to share my viewpoint about my work.  When I approach a painting, or a poem, or a song; I bring myself and all the history that life has burdened me with as audience.  If you truly want to be creative then you can’t put fences around your work.  The work must be free but you have to understand that a viewer, a listener will find in your work what they need, not what you need.  I invite people to tell me what they see in my drawings.  Sometimes it is very intimidating!   Recently a friend asked me “When did you move from the rain into the sunshine?”  I was stunned!  Did she see that in my drawings, did she see that in me, or was she telling me about herself?  No work of art is entirely removed from the artist but the artist, certainly, cannot prevent the audience from finding meanings that are necessary to them.  Good art will always transcend the artist because it allows for interpretation.  You can’t tell the world that you want your art to be “free” and then get angry because someone called your drawing  “a painting”,  your poem “a song” or your song “a poem.”  My life has taught me that meaning is at best elusive.  I have survived because I’ve always understood that every work of art, that every poem, that every song is there to comfort me in this hard thing called life.  What artist could ask for more?

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