April 27, 2011
Sometimes I get in my own way. Yesterday one of the youth said she was going to paint a hamburger. We were in the middle of working on other projects and painting was not one of them. I figured, “oh, another quick painting without focus or thought.” Don’t get me wrong, what I like about working with youth on art projects during afterschool hours is to give them the freedom to find a way to express emotion and spirit the way they need and want to. However, I figured when it came to reflection, this painting was going to stay pretty much on the surface.
“What you carve or paint or plaster is really up to you, it’s your art,” is something we often say when folk ask about what art they should create. We talk about looking into oneself and consider how to express emotions, desires, hurt and wellbeing through the medium they are working with. Our goal is to give guidance and find help when we don’t have the skills needed, but the art folk create should be reflective of their own being. One young man thought about the comment after asking what he should do, and then said, “What about this?,” while holding up his middle finger. Belinda’s answer, “It’s your art. If that is what best expresses your feelings and who you are at this moment, then it is fine with me.” He finished his piece two days later, it didn’t even have a hand involved, but it did make you think.
I should have had that in mind when at the end of the day the young woman asked if we would like to see her painting. Belinda and I both said, “of course!”—Belinda’s of course was much more heartfelt than my own. I walked over and looked at what she had painted and, well, like I said; sometimes I get in my own way. The painting was nothing like I expected but instead expressed exactly what we encourage. Bold strokes, a brilliant use of mixing paint (And we don’t have the best paint to begin with!), and blends where I did not expect them. Her painting expresses freeness from confinement, and invites the observer to free themselves from preconceptions. Her layering allures the onlooker to move beyond the reflection in the mirror and recognize the wonderful stratums of self that makes up the whole. In all, she gives us a clear presentation of heart, emotion, and self.
Sometimes I get lucky, my preconceived notions get set aside, and I get to experience a hamburger in a way I could only hope for from the grill!
© David B. Bell 2011