Sometimes artists are invited to submit art work that fit certain themes. This was the case for a recent call by a California institution to submit works for Love - Hope - Faith and Shame.
I loved the idea that the call for art requested submissions that illustrate a cultural, single or multi, interpretation of the exhibit theme. Just up my alley, if you have followed my work in the past and know what I mean.
This also made me think that should my work be accepted I need to write a coherent description of why I thought the paintings related to the themes. An artist not only has to be able to paint, but needs to be able to interpret the work in such a way that it sparks interest. Not that easy, especially if you didn't really start out painting the piece for that particular purpose.
So let's take a closer look at how I approach writing about my work to make it fit a theme and then I will share some tips with you.
The Middle East and especially the men of that particular region are often portrayed through the media as fanatics, men of hate and violence. Unfortunately over time such portrayals form a negative stigma in the minds of Westerners and we often forgot that people from the Middle East have the same dreams and aspirations as we do. The love for life and it's enjoyment of a shared joke or just amusing experience is universal. My Iranian Man captures that moment of pure uninhibited happiness and love for life and transcends it to the viewer to be shared. I have shown this paintings at shows and it has never failed to bring a smile to those who have seen it.
In Hinduism, sadhu is a common term for an ascetic or practitioner of yoga (yogi) who has given up pursuit of the first three Hindu goals of life: kama (pleasure), artha (wealth and power) and even dharma (duty). The sadhu is solely dedicated to achieving moksha (liberation) through meditation and contemplation of God. (ref. Wikipidia)
Giving up all one's earthly pleasures for one's religion is what I can only term true "Faith"
The Karo Tribe belongs to one of the vanishing Tribes in Ethopia. Considered primitive by Western standards, men of the tribe hunt and kill in order to sustain and protect their families and tribe. Vigor and strength are a must for every male tribal member. In this painting a young Karo man, with his traditional face painting stands against the trunk of a tree. He is alone and when one looks at him, ya sense of worry can be detected in his eyes. Furthermore he is not surrounded by other tribe members as it is customarily the case, but stands in solitude almost becoming one with the tree bark behind him. He wants to melt away in "shame".
It brings up the topic of how men are treated throughout society if for whatever reason they do not adhere to the standards which have been predetermined for them. Even the most fearsome and strong looking man can be overshadowed by shame for not having lived up to expectations.
"A Lifetime" has always struck me as a painting that shows the fragility of life. When I look at this man I see someone who through age has lost his eyesight, is missing pretty much all of his teeth for the exception of a few stubs, and is not even filling out his shirt properly. He has lived a lifetime and surely has experienced much, but he is fading away!
This brings up the question of "Is this all that there is to life?". I think as we age, we all want our lives to have had meaning. We raised our children in hopes to instill a good character in them and to see them prosper. We hope that we have provided for our loved ones well enough that even after we are gone they are cared for. We hope that all the things we have accomplished in life have had some meaning and touched the life of others in a meaningful way. We hope that how we approached the trials and tribulations of life were statements to our good character and assure us a better afterlife, incarnation, entry to heaven.
We hope it was not all for nothing!
I have no idea how what I wrote will be received by the jurors. Neither do I know how well versed and technically accomplished the competition is. One thing I do know however is that writing or talking about one's work is a very good practice. It helps an artist not only to apply the work to different situations, but forces you to be able to converse with others about topics that make the piece more interesting.
The art we created is extremely personal and I believe that as we paint our subjects we have an underlying perception that draws us to the themes we are working on. I would start out with taking the topic and looking at the body of work to see which piece fits it the best. Some pieces will jump right out, simply because of the subject matter, just like the Sadhu - Religion - Faith. Then I would look at current events for more clues and see what's going on in the world. Does any piece compliment a current event? The Iranian Man fit that category rather well. Here I turned a negative Middle East - turmoil - preconceived ideas, into something positive. Sometimes the technique and overall look can be used to make a piece fit a theme, which is the case of the Karo man.The mood of the painting - lost and found edges - color scheme can all assist in finding the proper placement under a topic. Other times it is simply how a painting makes you feel. Since I am over the hill in year - so to speak, mortality and the question of "what the heck have I done with my life" are often on my mind. Drawing on your mood, personal thoughts and experiences can also help you to find a piece and make it relate to the category you are trying to fit it in.
If all else fails ask a friend or relative. Put it on your social media sites and ask there. Someone is bound to have an opinion. :) How do you go about making your artwork fit different topics? Under what themes have you submitted the same work before?