Art with meaning

Relationship Goals
Ink and marker on “spirit” paper, 2016

Sometimes artists get so hung up on technique that we forget to tell a story, express a moment or reveal something intimate — all things great art should be.

To me, this “revelation,” as it were, is the most important and most difficult aspect of art: How to infuse are with meaning.

I recently had the wonderful opportunity to be part of the Nasty Women Exhibition in Northwest Arkansas. The event is apolitical, but there were so many intimate images of how women related to the term “nasty” or how they feel as women generally. It was a beautiful event. My part — a show at Local Color in Fayetteville — ended Sunday, but the events will be going on all of this month.

On Saturday, women gathered to talk at a forum. The panel spoke about art’s ability to challenge viewers and pointed out how so many women feel unheard.

My piece, “Relationship Goals,” went up Thursday with an artist reception. Only one person “got it” immediately. I put it on here and hope you “get it” too.

This image is something that actually happened and probably happens to every couple. (Yes, the woman’s expression is tired-angry.) I used regular colored pens and markers to achieve the effect. The paper, though, is a collage of “joss” paper, also known as ghost or spirit paper. I picked up a bundle at Tang’s Asian Market not too long ago.

What interested me about the paper (aside from its vibrant metallic essence and repeating patterns) is that it is used traditionally as a way to pay off ancestor debts, among other family-related things. It’s burned as an offering. That link to family, even when we don’t want the link, seems inescapable in life and even death. How much of what we do is just a repeat of what others did before us?

For some who attended the show, this made an impact.

“The worse thing I ever did was try to be someone else,” a patron said Thursday.

“Yes, but someone told you not to be that person, didn’t they?” I said.

“They did more than tell me.”