The Power of Mystery

I love watching people. Call it voyeuristic but it can be quite entertaining sometimes. I have an "open art studio" in Asheville, which as I've explained in the past, means that anyone can walk in at any time and take a look at my paintings on the wall and watch me work (if they want to). When people enter my studio, my area is just to the left of the door, so I'm right there, and that's my favorite time to pay attention. Oftentimes, the expression on peoples faces is one of complete bafflement. Just last week, a woman strolled in, took a couple second look at the first painting on the wall, screwed up her face and said, "Okay, so what is this? How do you do it?" That made me laugh inside (I love that my artwork baffles people!).

When I began painting and first opened my studio in Asheville, I used to answer these questions in great detail, which, when I think about it now, was really weird I felt compelled to do that. It would be like if you went to a French restaurant and asked the waiter how the chef cooked the Chicken Basquaise and the chef came out, sat down at your table, pulled out the recipe card and went over it all step by step. That was me.

I don't do that anymore simply because I realized that when you de-mystify something, you take power away from it. I don't want to do that. I love what I do -- I put so much of myself into my paintings -- I don't want to take away their power to grab people. I WANT my artwork to baffle people and give them enjoyment. I really want to illicit wonder. So...I WANT people to wonder what the heck they're looking at and I want them to guess how I do the kind of artwork I do, but I walk a fine line. See, I want to be polite and answer their questions and encourage even more questions. But I have to try to figure out how much to answer and what not to say, knowing that the more detailed an explanation I give, the more I deflate the power of the art I'm explaining.

I want my artwork to be truly unique. I've spent almost eighteen years developing something that no one else is doing, and while that's really satisfying, it also is frustrating because I WANT to talk about it. I think what I do is fascinating (most of the time). I have a blast and I think it's probably normal for someone to blab endlessly about what they're excited about. But in my case, I have to know how little is acceptable to say, and then say no more. Mystery gives power, and I would think all artists would want their work to be powerful.