Recently I showed a piece of artwork that I’m entering in a local contest to my parents (both of them octogenarians), and while I was there, I showed them a quick slideshow on my phone of several other pieces I’m working on. These are two very sharp, hard-working people who just really don’t see then need for a computer in their home, so the only way they really ever see my work is for me to take one over there and show them.
Also, neither is a fan of modern or abstract art. I understand this, because I honestly wasn’t a fan of it until a few years ago when I started playing around in Gimp and started doing it. Then it became real to me, and I suddenly got it. They haven’t had that experience, though (yet), and they both of them really prefer journalistic-styled photography (Mom is actually quite good at this type of photography and has had several her photos used in our local paper) and portrait art with an occasional floral painting or still life thrown in….as long as it has some sentimental value. They also have a lot of respect for artists they learned about in school such as Renoir or Van Gogh – and occasionally take time to visit art galleries where such collections are on display.
So here I am with my latest out of almost five decades of (mostly abandoned) projects, and I’m suddenly all into abstract art. Patiently, the three of us gather around my phone, and start looking at the art.
Dad: Oh…OK. (Turning the phone, wondering if he’s looking at the art from the right angle) Is that supposed to be off-set like that?
Mom: I’m not really used to this kind of art. I’m used to paintings like Van Gogh or Picasso.
Me: You remember Van Gogh’s the one who killed himself, right, Mom?
Dad: (Pointing to a blue one) Oh, I like that! (For the record, my Dad like’s anything that is blue…seriously, anything.)
Me: Thanks, Dad, I like that one, too.
Mom: (Quintessential church lady, wide eyed in horror) The cross is disappearing!!
Me: No, Mom, it’s OK – it’s not disappearing. It’s sparkling!
Mom: Oh, OK (not totally convinced). Well, it’s only half a cross!
Me: (Showing her another cross that is slightly more traditional) How about that?
Mom: Hmmph. It’s crooked. (She really does prefer things to be symmetrical and centered).
Dad: Well, I don’t see any really dark themes here – that’s good.
Me: (Laughing) No, no blood and gore, Dad. Although this one’s a little scary, I guess.
Dad: (Pointing to another one): Oh, and I really like that one!
Me: That one’s called “In the beginning.”
Dad: I like it.
Mom: (Pointing to a purple abstract and laughing) And what’s this one called? Two squiggly lines?
Me: It’s “Hope,” Mom. Hope.
So, I’m still hoping to share the joy of abstract art with my folks, and I haven’t given up yet. I’m working on a little family arts and crafts project (we’ve done those before), and I think, like me, they might enjoy this a bit more once they have an opportunity to experience the art, rather than just look at it.
I’m really not trying torture my parents with all of this. We live in a relatively small community, and it’s only a matter of time before someone who has seen my artwork online will recognize the name, and mention something about this to my Mom or Dad, I think it’s important that they are not taken off-guard when this happens. I want them to understand essentially what I do, be aware that I do most of “on the Internet” and to at least be able to nod politely, and perhaps acknowledge that yes, Jenn seems to really enjoy working on art. That IS probably what they will do. They’re very nice people, and have always tried to be supportive of whatever I’m into at the moment…and trust me, that has taken A LOT of patience on their part, because it changes often, and usually winds up in some sort of embarrassing failure.
The fact remains, however, that abstract art just isn’t for everyone, and my parents (and a lot of other folks) probably just won’t ever be into it. I have no way of knowing how much longer I’ll be doing this – maybe something else will have my rapt attention by this time next year. And that’s OK.