Today, as I was working at my computer, listening to Leonard Cohen singing his beautiful Hallelujah, I felt compelled to finally figure out what he was singing about. There’s something in my “ear to brain” connection that prevents me from distinguishing most of the words in vocal songs. I think it must have something to do with the level of tones that I can and cannot hear. Most of the time, my enjoyment of a piece of music is based purely on its melody, the way notes are put together, and if it is a vocal piece, the emotion expressed by the singer. When I read the lyrics for Hallelujah, I was blown away by the imagery they presented to me. Some of the words I connected with, some I did not. It does not matter what Leonard is saying; I simply love the melody and the depth of emotion it conveys.
Earlier today, I had an opportunity to view an art film by a photographer artist Emily Magee of Optick Nerve in Gravenhurst, Ontario. Emily and I are distantly connected from when I lived in Ontario, so when she announced on Facebook yesterday that a film she made was being released, I decided to have a look. It’s black and white. It’s very well put together in that it has a polished feel, and it was evident to me that considerable planning had been put into its content. But … I didn’t get it. The video is 8.32 minutes long, so when I realized that I wasn’t “getting it” a couple of minutes into it, I just focused my attention on the visuals. I connected with the imagery because it reminded me of where I used to live, and because some of it was quite beautiful. I took a few minutes afterwards to send her my feedback, admitting that I didn’t get it, but that I felt she had done a really good job with putting the film together. Emily replied back that most other viewers felt the same way, but that’s okay because it’s an art film. It’s like a dream you had that doesn’t really make sense. That’s all. And that’s okay with me.
Several years ago, my sister Theresa in Japan told me that she wanted to publish a book of her poetry, and that she wanted my photographs to accompany her poems. I said … okay…. but I was scared to death. What do I know about poetry? Not a damn thing. Most of the time I can’t figure out what the poet is saying. But as we worked through our process of matching my photos to her poems, I learned that my interpretation of what Theresa wrote was always okay, even if it was way off base with her intention. I learned that interpretation of poetry will always be based on personal experience. There is no wrong interpretation. You can preview our finished and published product here: A Symphony of Words and Images: Two Sisters, Worlds Apart, Creative Together.
The same concept applies when viewing someone’s artwork – be it a painting, photograph, or whatever. Each person who looks at a piece of art will be affected differently, and will see something different in it. They may not even understand why they feel a connection with the art piece. Again, it’s all based on personal experiences. You don’t have to understand why a piece affects you, or what the artist is trying to say. Just enjoy it!