For each of us, there are things that are easy and other things that are downright mysteries. For me, music is easy. It’s been a major force throughout my life. I like listening to it, I understand why it goes one way or another, I find deeper meaning in many lyrics, I feel it.
Visual art has been the opposite for me. I always had, and still have, a hard time coloring between the lines. In second grade, a classmate who had an innate art ability more or less told me that I should color back and forth and that spreading the color multi-directionally was a skill for more advanced artists like herself. I never got past drawing a basic block house with a sun in the sky and “curved v” birds flying around. In college, I took a course called “Drawing 101” after being assured no art ability was necessary. I dropped it halfway through the semester because I spent more time on it than my other courses and my very best work was getting a C grade. The teacher couldn’t explain it to me when I went for extra help.
Now I’m in my fifties and have reconnected with a high school band-mate on Facebook. He is highly trained in both visual and performing arts and I’ve learned a little about art from his posts. He recently posted a piece of art that grabbed me like nothing before. He posted this photo and asked why a piece of public art was propped in front of a public parking garage almost hidden from sight:
To understand why this piece of art spoke to me, you also need to know that I have always loved doing puzzles, both mental and visual. So this fired more cylinders than any other piece of art. My curiosity took over, and once I ignored the poor plants that look like they need a drink of water, I got to wondering.
First of all, is this art just hanging out here or was it put here on purpose? I tend to assume there’s a reason for everything, so I postulate that it was placed in that position on purpose.
Then what is the purpose? I know good art often makes us think, sometimes about profound or uncomfortable truths. And many times the best art, as the best music, can mean different things to different people.
So why was it placed here? For me, seeing the photo, it’s here specifically to get my attention. I couldn’t just say, “Oh, that looks nice” or “what an unattractive piece.” I had to think about it. So the first message is maybe that we won’t always understand life’s puzzles.
My next thought was whether the piece on the ground actually fits in the opening of the other piece. I believe it does. If I were there I would maybe, with help, try to see if it fits. So it may be showing us that we all need help to fit back together sometimes.
Are there other puzzle piece sculptures around that we don’t see in the photo? The message might be about feeling alone and breaking out to find someone else we can relate to. Or maybe just breaking free and looking for someone or something to connect with.
If the two pieces were joined and we saw just a big block of concrete, we wouldn’t notice it. But as it is, it gets our attention. So perhaps the message is for us to stop hiding our puzzle (let’s face it, we are all puzzles) and let others see who we are. Show your puzzle to someone and let them love or reject the real you.
Regardless of why it’s there and what the intention was, this piece of art reached me in a way no other art has before. I think I am starting to understand. Now I know my favorite genre of art is puzzle art. And maybe this puzzle art sculpture is the first step towards my finally understanding art.
With gratitude to William Bolster for sharing his art insights and allowing me to use his photo.