There is little so daunting, or so promising, as a blank slate.
My childhood home has a large chalkboard in the dining room, likely saved from an old schoolhouse at some point. It was always useful when an older sibling was trying to help a younger one understand schoolwork, or for playing games like Hangman or Tic Tac Toe.
We would draw pictures, write messages to each other and just generally doodle as the mood struck.
I can’t draw a picture of much of anything, other than some stick figures, a passable tree, flowers and a snail. My mind is filled with images, but I am unable to translate that into artistic talent. I remember a school assignment where we had to write a report and free-hand draw a picture of that country’s flag. I had Mexico. I should have picked Belgium. I didn’t get a very good grade on that report.
While I accept that I lack the ability to create works of art, I have a great appreciation for artwork itself.
As we’ve written in The Era, local artists Greg Souchik and Rick Minard have painted a mural on the side of a building at 177 Main St. I’m sure most have either seen the mural — which so far depicts Jerry Garcia, Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin — either in person or in photos in The Era.
What one may not know is that not everyone has been thrilled about the subject matter. Some folks took to social media to voice their displeasure about glorifying musicians from an era known for drugs, and that all three were known drug users.
I’m not sure where to begin. First, Souchik has ownership of the building, and it isn’t in the city’s regulated historic district. Realistically, he could paint it however he likes.
And what he and Minard chose to do was create art. Beautiful portraits of people. Flawed people, yes, but aren’t we all?
Let’s take a look at some famous works of art.
Madam Lisa Giocondo is thought to be perhaps one of the most famous women to pose for a portrait. She had been married off at the age of 15 to a slave trader. Does the portrait, Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, glorify slavery? Of course not.
There is meaning behind art, yet the true meaning that the artist intended may not be the meaning it carries for those who enjoy it.
In the case of the mural, perhaps The Grateful Dead was playing on the radio on someone’s first date. Maybe Janis Joplin singing about another little piece of her heart holds a special memory for someone else. Hendrix’s version of The Star Spangled Banner is amazing, and I was very pleased to see his inclusion in the project.
Isn’t the purpose of art to elicit a response? I am not a fan of Hieronymus Bosch’s depictions of sins and moral failings, but I can recognize and appreciate them for what they are — art.
I will never understand what message Jackson Pollock conveyed, but I can see the beauty in his work.
Art has a very broad definition, and not every work of art is to every person’s taste. Some enjoy Coolidge’s Dogs Playing Poker, while for others, Salvador Dali’s Surrealism may fit the bill.
In my opinion, for what it’s worth, I think Souchik and Minard should be commended, not vilified, for their work. The utilitarian brick was really kind of bland to look at.
I like what they’ve done so far, and I eagerly await their next addition to the wall.
For those who don’t care for it, I will offer the advice my mother often gave to me: “If you don’t like it, don’t look.”
(Marcie Schellhammer is the Era’s assistant managing editor. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)