Michael Strand…help A Spectator Out.

Oscar Wilde once said,“It is the spectator, and not life, that art really mirrors.”  Wilde’s words have increasingly come to mind over the past month or so as I have pondered and watched others ponder the new piece of art in the AHSS Dean’s Office.  It is a very different piece and it has produced a tremendous amount of conversation.

I keep thinking that if I look at it long enough I will finally see what I am missing and completely understand what the artist was going for.  Perhaps it is similar to those optical illusions wherein you can either see the lady in the hat or the old hag.  But I have looked at that piece of art and discussed it with others many times and I still remain confused about what I am looking at.  Truth be told, I cannot recall when last I spent this much time fixated on one piece of art.

Here is a fuzzy, but fair capture of the art piece in question from my phone camera

I am told by one of the Dean’s administrative assistants that Michael Strand – one of our esteemed faculty members at NDSU and himself quite the artist – is the one who supplied the art to the Dean’s office.  It is a piece, as I understand it, that he had in a collection somewhere which is now on loan to the Dean’s office for folks’ viewing pleasure.  The artist’s signature in the corner of the piece appears to read jonas.91. Being the astute Google researcher I am, I searched for information on the mystery artist – but I came up empty.  All that is left to do is to beg Michael Strand for whatever information he has on this conversation-generating piece of art.

Who is this artist and what did he or she want to provoke with this piece of art?  I challenge you dear readers to ponder it awhile (as so many others have) and share what you see.  My best guess after much deep reflection is that there is a message in this art about what is waiting over the next bump in the road – that which can barely be seen, but that equates with better things on the horizon.  Pretty basic interpretation, I know. What can I say  – I am just one of the spectators. 😉

Day one thousand three hundred and sixty-seven of the new forty – obla di obla da

Ms. C

2 Responses

  1. Aha! Help has arrived!

    This is a painting by local artist, Dan Jones – who recently had an exhibition at the North Dakota Museum in Grand Forks. — You are looking at a farm field, dark rich soil makes up much of the painting, with small green trees dotting a horizon line. The yellow swath to the right is either wheat, or a road, whichever is more romantic to the viewer. It is a really good example of allowing the viewer the opportunity to “fill in the content” – not dictating meaning or imagery, which is really what makes Art a very unique media. Art is not about technique, or illustration exclusively, but resides in an area of communication that goes beyond “a picture” and more specifically in this case asks as many questions of the viewer as it provides answers. (or in this case, an entire blog post)

  2. One final thought – There was a study conducted a number of years ago examining the time that people spent in front of the Leonardo’s painting “Mona Lisa” in the Lourve – (drum rolllllll please) – 15 seconds. I have always found that a bit disappointing – although the reality of that situation is that you have a number of people waiting to get a glimpse of this iconic masterpiece. In the past month, I have made a few trips into the Dean’s office and have had several interactions about the painting, from this I say “stand tall Dan Jones – your work is operating as intended!”

    The fact that this work of art has garnered conversation, contemplation and a variety of opinions is actually fairly substantial proof that this is a strong work. A wonderful mentor of mine, the late painter, David Brown, once stated that he would rather someone ‘dislike’ his work than be apathetic towards it, for apathy is death to an artist. (of course appreciation and a connection to the viewer in a positive way is certainly desired in many cases) Painting is not decoration, it is communication it has great potential to inspire contemplation and an internal conversation about what one is encountering. Art is beautifully inefficient in a world that presses down mandates of efficiency, and it certainly cannot be quantified in a way that matches many of the ways we are required to evaluate. Thank goodness for that! So I am pleased that there is much thought given to this work (even if some of that thought is not understanding, or frankly not loving the work) Artists are not decorators, they are communicators – in a language unique to visual rhetoric. I carry a mantra into the classroom, “There is no RIGHT answer in art, there are simply more or less interesting solutions” – There is no answer key to this painting; the answer lies in collaboration with the viewer and the personal context that is brought to the experience of seeing.

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