In my early years, whether reading for enjoyment or for school, and I read a lot, I rarely read the introduction to a book or anything about the author. Neither did I like to see previews to a movie. I had no interest in the overview of the entire work, a summary or the titles to the chapters. I didn’t care about the historical context or what the author was thinking when he/she wrote the piece. I simply wanted to read the work, or see the movie.
Maybe I was too impatient, maybe I liked the element of surprise, maybe I wanted to judge for myself without somebody else telling me what to look for or how to interpret the work. Maybe all of the above and more. Even now when I see movie stars doing an interview on television before a movie comes out it ruins the movie for me. Once I see a movie or a T.V. show, knowing about the personal life of the star ruins the image of the character they portrayed.
Similarly, when I view a work of art, I have no interest in what period in the artist’s life they created it, what they were suffering or celebrating, or the process they went through to develop it. I want every work of art to reach me on a level of familiarity, to surprise me within that realm of familiarity, or to simply awe me, absent the familiarity, by the splendor of the image or the brilliance of the work, even if I don’t understand it. When I look at a rainbow in the sky I don’t need nor want to know the history of the sun and the rain and what created the rainbow in order to thoroughly enjoy it.
Most of us don’t know how electricity really works, or how computers do what they do, but we’re all awed by the result, even though we don’t understand the process.
Even in museums–historical, art, science or otherwise–rarely do I read the plaque that accompanies the display. I am enthralled, or not, by the work. It impacts me, or it doesn’t. Impact is the key. Blow me away by the ugliness, the perversity of the art, or blow me away by the subtlety of the art, or find a place where I settle into the art.
Years ago, for our weekly entertainment, my husband and I would stay up to the early morning hours with our three dogs, a bottle of wine, after a few beers, and a book of poetry. He read, we listened. One poem always got read more than once on each occasion: Walt Whitman’s “When Lilacs Last In The Dooryard Bloomed”. We didn’t need to understand all of it or really anything about it, for it to reach both of us on a deep level of emotional knowing, longing and healing. The title alone does that. Years later when the news said that he was gay and writing about his gay lover who died, it ruined it for me. Not that he was gay, but that now my personal interpretation was not valid.
I didn’t have to know that Van Gogh cut his ear off, or now, maybe he didn’t, according to current news reports, in order to enjoy his paintings. Now every time I see one of his paintings, that’s the image I see.
Introductions are a form of advertising. If you don’t like the advertisement, you won’t read the book. If you don’t like the preview to the movie, you won’t see the movie. If you don’t know anything about the artist, you won’t view the art. Now, who’s being impatient? As far as having to know every little detail of the creator’s life in order to enjoy the work, I say the creator wants you to interpret the work through the prism of your life, not theirs–at least this artist, writer, chef does.
The only benefit you’ll get by reading anything I write twice, or by looking at anything I create more than once is that you’ll see more detail.
The names of people, groups, nations found in WAKING UP THE PLANET, A CALM LONG RANT and VIVID VIEWS were used, not to offend, but to point out flaws in order to help everyone else. They were real examples, instead of hypotheticals. Substitute any name, any group, any nation for the one used and what applies to one applies to all.
~ Sharon Lee Davies-Tight