How does a self proclaimed art skeptic read art?
We searched far and wide to find a new friend that stated:
"I don't like or care much about art"
We asked her to review two of artist Beth Wittenberg's most recent paintings.
Her name has been changed to protect her from the public shaming for her insipid taste.
(We found her in the "wall art" isle of Target purchasing a set of pink flower prints)
We showed 'Not An Art Lover' new works from artist Beth Wittenberg and recorded the conversation
Tied and True
mixed media on canvas 30"X40"
MOD: This painting is called "Tied and True" ... What do you think of this artwork?
NOT AN ART LOVER: It's colorful, maybe too colorful, and kind of scary...it makes me nervous!! TIED and true? oh boy.
MOD: What makes you nervous about it?
NOT AN ART LOVER: That snake thing, and the word "Beware"...it's weird ...and scary...
the colors are childlike and happy, but the subjects seems.... dangerous. What are those...ants? I don't like ants either! They make me itchy! Oh Lord!
MOD: Do you think there is anything symbolic about the snake or the ants?
NOT AN ART LOVER: Symbolic? hmm. I suppose there is something to be said about being made itchy or uncomfortable by just a drawing, although that's not hard to do for me...I just now got even itchier just by saying the word "ants" out loud.
MOD: That's an important thought.
NOT AN ART LOVER: That ants make me itchy?
MOD: No, that there is something to be said about art that makes you feel uncomfortable.
NOT AN ART LOVER: (laughter) I thought ants making me itchy was some "art" thing I don't know anything about...
It's making me feel something, that's for sure. I see blocks, an exit sign... is that the way to escape this trap?
MOD: You feel trapped?
NOT AN ART LOVER: no, yes....well, it has things in it that make me scared or uncomfortable, things that SHOULD make people like scared....ya know, like the snake, the ants, tangly stuff, chains and claws...those are things that make me uncomfortable, those are things that make me want to run or leave...they should make anyone want to leave!
MOD: Are you having trouble looking at them?
NOT AN ART LOVER: I suppose, in some ways, but as I explore more, the blocks and colors are more fun and soothing, and making it sort of okay.
MOD: When you look at the art, does your eye follow a certain path?
NOT AN ART LOVER: Well, yes...I saw the snake and the BEWARE first and looked away, but then you made me look again and I found the blocks and and that soft blue path that led me to the EXIT so there's a way out...but I'm still confused.
MOD: Can you relate your feelings about it to a similar feeling that you've had in real life?
(very long pause of silence)
NOT AN ART LOVER: It reminds me of an accident that I was in twenty years ago when I first got my license..shock and confusion at the flashing lights and people talking to me at once...like I didn't know what was happening....and relief that everyone was okay, anger that my car was really broken, nervous that I would not make it to work, more relief and elation after it was all over and I was home safe...I suppose this painting brings out too many feelings at once, so it feels like "confusion". And it also makes me think of children, the colors and the blocks, there is something child-like about it...
but I don't want children to be around the snakes and ants and claws!!
MOD: See? You are speaking art already.
NOT AN ART LOVER: Oh! I thought I'd need more school for this. (laughter)
MOD: Ready for another painting?
NOT AN ART LOVER: By the same artist? Hang on, Let me brace myself.
Why is Everything Broken?
mixed media on canvas 30"X40"
NOT AN ART LOVER: OH! Oh my word...this one is almost scarier than snake-ants, that's a severed head! Maybe not human, but human-like for sure. Has the artist experienced trauma? I bet the artist has had some trauma. I think I have trauma now!! But at least there are no snakes and ants! (laughter)
MOD: I want to know what you think, and how the art makes you feel, and I'll tell you who the artist is later.
NOT AN ART LOVER: I'm a little bit queasy! .... but I think I really love the color combination hahaha. Is that a severed tail too? So violent. Whoever BW is, he maybe has some dark thoughts.
MOD: Do you think the artist is a man or a woman?
NOT AN ART LOVER: I suppose I assumed it was a man, maybe like we all do when we hear someone say "Doctor"... is that because history has showed us more male artists, or are women just as artsy? I can't think of any women artists, other than you because you told me you were an artist, and you are a woman...
MOD: Yes, women are just as artsy, and probably underrepresented publicly for sure
NOT AN ART LOVER: I suppose I shouldn't assume, that's a difficult thing to change in myself, but the way kids are now with their gender confusion, I feel like I don't know what to say to anyone anymore especially about genders. But Geez, I hope you don't tag me in this, I just sounded stupid.
MOD: Did this painting make you think of these things, or was it my questions?
NOT AN ART LOVER: Geez, I don't know...now I'm thinking that the human shape with severed thingies looks more like a stomach or an organ and all the pink looks like dried up blood...it's making me think of medical things and trauma again.
MOD: There you go, looking at art like a pro again.
NOT AN ART LOVER: Haha! See? This shit is easy! Oops, can I say shit?
MOD: You can say shit.
NOT AN ART LOVER: I imagine talking about art is easier than making it, but I still don't feel qualified to talk about it...Is there something I'm supposed to look for, like hidden messages?
MOD: Everyone is qualified to talk about it, and I think you found what hidden meanings that you can relate to pretty quickly.
NOT AN ART LOVER: Did I find the meanings that the artist meant for me to find?
MOD: We can ask the artist later, but if you see those meanings, than they are valid.
NOT AN ART LOVER: Well, I want to dislike it, but now I sort of want to know more and get some answers.
Is it a stomach? I really want to know if that's a stomach, or a human form. I also want to know if the artist is suffering!
MOD: Art is more about questions than answers...you may never find those answers, or you just have to come to a conclusion for yourself.
NOT AN ART LOVER: Girl, what are you good for then?! (laughter)
No really... what do YOU think about this art? I know, you gave me that question, so there is my question back! I like it now because I'm feeling more bold all of a sudden, but I can't imagine I could look at the chopped up stomach all day in my house, but I wouldn't mind visiting stuff like this at an art place.
MOD: Like a... gallery, maybe?
NOT AN ART LOVER: Wise ass, yes, I suppose a gallery, but I never go to them...(laughter)....I do enjoy the street art the kids make in the city when I visit, it's neat, except for the vandalized buildings with swears....And I see stuff online on Facebook sometimes, like my cousin who paints pretty landscapes with watercolors,
but I never looked at them for any deeper meaning.
MOD: Do you ever "consider" the street art you see on a deeper level or ask yourself questions?
NOT AN ART LOVER: I will now, yes. This is the longest I've ever spent looking at a painting!
MOD: My work here is done. (laughter) Do you think to qualify something as art it has to look nice in a home?
NOT AN ART LOVER: For me to buy it, yeah, I guess so...
I better love something before I see it day after day after day, I don't want to think deep thoughts when I'm shaving my legs to go to work or making a pot of coffee or chatting on the phone.
MOD: What sort of things do you have hanging in your home right now?
NOT AN ART LOVER: Let's see...family portraits, antique copper pots, some shabby chic wood pieces from ten years ago, they look so pretty....Oh! and some crafts that my gram made me...like a witch thing that holds toilet paper.
I do have a really old painting or a print of two cats under a tree that I found at an antique flea market...
Does my cat art qualify as art?
MOD: How do the cats and apple tree make you feel?
NOT AN ART LOVER: They are just pleasant to look at.
MOD: Is that art's only job? To be pleasant?
NOT AN ART LOVER: Well, now I'm staring at this painting of a severed stomach and thinking about my IBS.
MOD: So art can make you think all different things?
NOT AN ART LOVER: I'm seeing your point, but maybe I don't want to think about my IBS everyday because it does just fine reminding me it's there (laughter)...but I'm really happy you made me do this, I think that I will think differently when I see any art now....
MOD: Will you walk into an art gallery?
NOT AN ART LOVER: Hell no! Well, maybe. (laughter)
MOD: Sending you over information about the artist now.
NOT AN ART LOVER: So she is a beautiful woman! Why do I think all artists are men? That's not great of me, is it?
MOD: I guess after this conversation, you'll think twice
NOT AN ART LOVER: For sure I appreciate this thing you are doing, I may actually confidently walk into a gallery this weekend and tell them I know Beth Wittenberg and I am an expert! (laughter)
I just realized that thinking all painters are men is like thinking all people from California must know each other, how have you put up with me for this, I must be maddening!
MOD: Actually, I was wondering if you know my friend Patrick...he lives in San Fransisco
NOT AN ART LOVER: I see what you did there... Can you show me one more, I feel like I'm on a roll!
MOD: Alright, here is a large canvas from her social media page...
NOT AN ART LOVER: Whoa! Is that a lobster claw-hand? I can't even!!
I wonder if she does pretty landscapes like my cousin
MOD: I don't think so...no...definitely not.
NOT AN ART LOVER: Where do you artists come up with this stuff?
MOD: Beth says it comes from the space in between...the invisible unseen space that most people ignore or maybe they don't know it exists.
NOT AN ART LOVER: Well, there's the philosophical part, right? Invisible forces...if this is what lives in that invisible space, I don't want to visit....and as I'm saying that out loud I realize I believe in heaven and hell, so maybe we are not so different.
MOD: Are you looking at the painting?
NOT AN ART LOVER: oh yes, I do like the heart and how it looks warm surrounding the heart but everything else is dark.
MOD: Do you think maybe that's symbolic?
NOT AN ART LOVER: Of what?
MOD: Even in darkness and despair, you can keep the heart well lit.
NOT AN ART LOVER: Geez, that's getting deep again...but yea, yes....yes that's actually true. When things are bad in life, our hearts are where we keep our light isn't it? Now I like the painting, the philosophy your talking relates to the church teachings that I pay attention to. Maybe I should ask you the hard theological questions next time?
MOD: Sure, why not?! Anytime!
NOT AN ART LOVER: The face is...a face only a mother could love though...or maybe was attacked by it's own claw hand. (laughter) I hope Ms. Wittenberg doesn't think I'm the crazy one. I think after you showed me who the artist is, it made me like the work even more, and I like her a lot, I like her.
NOT AN ART LOVER: The humanity attached to it, I suppose. Like the spray paint art...if I thought of who might be behind the art, I may get less angry when I see a dick drawing on the side of a building. Why do artists do that?
MOD: Maybe the dick artist just needs a hug...or maybe they are not quite an artist...yet.
NOT AN ARTIST: That makes sense. Can we do this again soon? Maybe with an artist that paints cats?....haha!
MOD: For sure, we will do this again soon, but you know, I probably won't show you normal cats.
NOT AN ARTIST: I expect as much, can't wait, thank you!
Wittenberg created two of the pieces featured above during the MODspoke event "A Wake in The Woods"
TIED AND TRUE and WHY IS EVERYTHING BROKEN?
are available right now for purchase in our online gallery and shop
Beth Wittenberg's next public gallery show will be at University of Maine Farmington
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