Monday, August 5, 2013

Is it surreal or is it whimsical? Choose wisely, Grasshopper.

I’ve been AWOL from the studio for a bit.  I have been having some increasing levels of pain in my hands over several months, (years, really) but it finally got to the point where I simply couldn’t hold on to tiny little pieces of glass anymore.  I decided to give it a couple of weeks and see if the pain improved.  It has, but not as much as I’d hoped.  I have a piece in progress that I’m anxious to get back to, but I’ll take it slowly, I think.
Meantime, let’s talk about art!  I have been following Juli Adams’ blog for a while now, ever since I discovered this little gem -

I Changed Your House
© Juli Adams

It made me chuckle because of a personal connection – my mother in law came home from Florida this spring to find that her granddaughter had repainted her living room (a different color) and rearranged the furniture.  It was done with love and good intentions, but I think it was a little jarring for my mother in law. 
Aside from the personal note, I love this painting for the long shadows, the look of intransigence on the character’s face, and the surreal concept that it would be possible to just push someone’s house over.  There’s a great deal more in this painting that deserves scrutiny, but for our purposes today, let’s talk about that word “surreal”.
Juli wrote a blog post about surrealism vs. whimsy, and I’d love it if you’d go read what she has to say here.  I understand exactly what she means when she says “I can't recall  when my dislike of the word 'whimsy' started or when, exactly, it turned to a seething and almost comical hatred.” 
I think the word whimsy suggests a lack of seriousness, a fatal cuteness (I HATE cute) that once flung at an artwork, sticks like the smell of yesterday’s fried fish.  Surrealism, on the other hand, connotes a juxtaposition of elements that creates enough astonishment to cause the viewer to examine preconceived notions about a subject, or to reexamine a context from a different perspective.  That’s a very serious thing indeed.  What a marvelous way to change the world.
Obviously, I have no personal investment in the discussion of surreal vs. whimsical.  My work has never been called either.  But I wonder, where do we draw the line between that lovely way of changing how people view something, and fatal cuteness?
What are your thoughts?

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