Saturday, October 09, 2010

Context: The Sequel

The "Tao of Now" for my October What Shines newsletter is Context, and how, as Anais Nin observed, we see things not as they are, but as we are. Today I experienced another, literal, "frame of reference":

I'd wandered into a local art gallery, in part because a new client had mentioned his photography was being exhibited there. After finding his work, I continued to enjoy the other artists' creations ~ until I came to a canvas that appeared to have crumbling strips of white plaster pasted on a background, with a little blob of red in one corner. The price was $1350, and I shook my head in amazement. While I aim never to criticize art, as it's the epitome of personal preference, this looked like something a child might have done when bored.

I strolled to the entrance and saw a fellow I've seen here before; one of the exhibiting artists. We struck up a conversation, and I mentioned that, as usual, I loved seeing the new works on display, although there was one that I didn't understand. Something kept me from saying anything more judgmental. I was glad I'd obeyed my intuition when Bob revealed himself as the creator of the piece.

A recent transplant from Taos, New Mexico (a noted art colony) he explained that the white strips represent the dominant Caucasian culture — which is crumbling — and the red dot, Native Americans, whom we've dominated. All at once, like a trick cube, his work appeared brilliant, and I asked why he didn't include a brief Artist's Statement with the piece to help people understand his intent — even something as simple as "Anglo / Native American". But he wants it without training wheels, so to speak. Enigmatic, though quite powerful, once I had a context.

Where are you making assumptions because you're missing the proper context? It's a potent exercise for us to practice every day: staying open to new information that could completely shift our interpretation of what we think we see.

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