A disturbance of truth

Henri Matisse said, “What I dream of is an art of equilibrium, purity and tranquility, devoid of upsetting or troubling subject matter…”

Is Matisse saying that the most important thing to him is an untroubling subject matter? Being true to the art itself — is this not his job?

When the chaos of his thoughts, colors, design and shapes come in order and in balance, then this is equilibrium, purity and tranquility to him. Another person might look at it, not understanding it because they are looking for something they can identify with. If they can’t identify with it, then it becomes a disturbance.

The true artist does not set out to disturb; his unique way of thinking will just cause disturbance. He has just taken the risk of being misunderstood. Art is not about getting our point across or carrying a crusade banner, it is to honor the creative process; not telling people what they should see, but helping their eyes be opened to see.

A reader from Arizona writes: “There is a certain thrill when you try to get an idea across to someone and all of a sudden they see it. I remember once teaching a course in art appreciation, asking a group of students what they thought of a painting of a lady by a window by Henri Matisse. They all agreed that they didn’t like the painting and when I asked them why, they all said that it didn’t look like a lady. I then proceeded to turn the painting upside down and then asked them if they liked it. Almost all of them thought it was greatly improved and enjoyed looking at it. I then pointed out that the artist wasn’t interested in painting a lady, he was only using the shapes and lines created by the subject matter to create an organization of art elements that was enjoyable to look at and one that a viewer could respond to if he only stopped looking for the obvious. It always reminds me of the story about Matisse, when he was confronted by a lady at the opening of a show in Paris. She was looking at a painting titled “Blue Nude” and she exclaimed that it didn’t look like a woman. Matisse’s response was that it wasn’t a woman, but that it was a painting.”

The response from a reader and friend of the arts from New Mexico was as follows:

“Your last article reads, ‘And change usually causes a disturbance.’ My thought is this. It is not until we are taken out of our comfort zone that a change will take place. Change comes with a price. An artist or anyone at times may have a thought they knew to be truth, only to find it not true.”

Then, she went on to write, “Today, I was listening to some tapes from past teachings which I taught. Now thirty years later I say, ‘Oh my, I was sure that was true. So what now, do I stop speaking in fear that I may not be speaking truth? Instead, I continue to seek truth. Truth is always truth, but it is only true to you when you act upon it.

“You said in your article, ‘Art is a truth revealing tool.’ I will ask, is it not the opposite? Does not truth reveal art? I am relating to one of your paintings hanging on my living room wall. It is one of trees. Think about this! You knew what you were painting, the whole time you were painting it. But it was not until recently that my husband and I discussed that very painting and we said, ‘There’s trees!’

“So I ask, did art reveal truth or did truth reveal art? It was not until we knew the truth that we said, “Oh those are trees.” Art revealed it.”

She concluded: “So maybe many artists paint truth and writers write truth and others speak truth, but it is not until the eye or the ear of their understanding is opened does it finally become truth. And that person must decide, what does it mean to me to know truth? Today, your painting of the trees now speaks to me about trees, where before it was an abstract painting. Would you say an abstract painting means hidden truth? I don’t know, do you?”

The Final Brushstroke: Within all art is hidden the truth about its creator and will be known by those who seek truth.

Comment from a reader   

“As a writer, it is often your responsibility to help educate viewers as to how to approach a work of art. As an artist, I have no such responsibility. My responsibility is to express myself about the world around in which I live. I must hope that those expressions are met with an open mind; one not just looking for the familiar, but receptive to new and unforeseen responses, sometimes shocking, sometimes thrilling, but never familiar.”

Lee Ables, Arizona.

Quote for the Week

“There are painters who transform the sun into a yellow spot, but there others who, thanks to their art and intelligence, transforms a yellow spot into the sun.” — Pablo Picasso.

At the Co-op

Heads up seventh- and eighth-grade artists. Don’t miss the art reception! Invite your friends and family. The Pagosa Artisans’ Co-op is hosting a reception for the seventh- and eighth- grade artists on Sunday, April 19, from 1 to 4 p.m. Winners will be announced and prizes and ribbons awarded. Come and support the future artists of Pagosa Springs.

The Co-op has begun collecting artwork from artists in grades nine through 12.. The deadline is April 31.


Photo courtesy Betty Slade
Creede Wylie, a seventh-grade student, is shown with his pencil drawing — part of the junior high art exhibit at the Pagosa Artisans Co-op, 150 Pagosa St. Pictured with Creede is Betty Slade, artist. The exhibit for the seventh- and eighth-grade artists will be displayed through the month of April.  A reception is planned for Sunday, April 19, from 1-4 p.m.