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Tyler Briggs

Looking at Pictures

“Original paintings are silent and still in a sense that information never is” (158). This statement holds more truth than first seems apparent. Sometimes this silence that he talks about is exactly like it sounds. Silence. Nothingness. After all, how can a simple, still painting make any noise? How can colors—and sometimes just lines—on some sort of medium communicate in any way besides visual representation to the viewers?

I’m not normally one to be moved by art. I’m not even one to go to an art gallery on a regular basis. My visitations to art galleries only included a hotel in a foreign city with bad weather, limiting my tourist options. But things were different when I found my painting. Untitled #62 was not my original first pick for the painting to write this essay on. No, its awesome beauty and savage intellect spoke to me in a different way than my first choice. But the vibrant colors definitely stood out.

If you haven’t yet observed the painting I chose, take the time to do so now. I want you to have the ability to think what you want about this magnificent work.

You’ve just seen Mr. Belanger’s visually stimulating art. Hopefully this painting created some questions in your mind similar to the questions it created in my mind. The brilliance of the masterfully blended colors have been placed inside your mental database for artwork. According to Berger, your perspective of it and my perspective will be different. Not because I may be taller or shorter than you or the afternoon sun was shining in when I saw it, but it wasn’t when you admired it. No, it’s because your past experiences in this world have led you to feel slightly or drastically different about this image than I did. The only person in this world who could maybe guess at how this picture affected me would my brother, and that’s because we grew up together. I see him almost every day.

When I first saw this picture, I actually stumbled with my thoughts. “What is your meaning, dear one?” I asked the painting. It didn’t force me to feel some specific feeling like paintings of landscapes often do. It guided and lead me to feel ANYTHING. It longed to be the creator of a feeling, regardless of how rude, cruel, nice, and/or gentle that feeling could be. And, as I looked at this painting, I began to be more and more intrigued. I locked eyes with what I envision to be the eyes of something in the painting, and I stared for one minute, two minutes, three, four. The time flew by. I didn’t know how to feel. I tried to comprehend what the picture was of, what the picture was trying to show. And I think it was doing the same to me!

I’m not normally one to be moved by art, but this one was just a bit different. I had to figure out what this painting was, so I asked it just that: “What are you, young one?” It was a new concept to me, the red hair of a possible creature being the face of another creature. So I stepped closer. I tried to see this painting as something of a mystery that I actually could solve—but it really isn’t for me to solve, is it?—so I studied it. Then I took a step back (and in the process nearly knocking over an expensive looking jar vase thingy with some figure as a handle) and examined the painting from further back. Again, I was fixed on the painting. I felt like part of me was involved, but the part of me that wasn’t was trying to rediscover this painting. I couldn’t quite get a grip on this work of art.

I tried to actually assess this painting. The red hair of what appears to be one animal slightly covers the face of another beastly animal. The vibrantly hot flame-like hair lead me to the chicken-like head of the first beast. A protruding beak sits atop the stalky neck of a body lost in space. Oddly enough, a blue orb of swirling yellow and white seems to be placed on the neck of the creature, like a small wing. The wings of thunder, this creature has, thunder orbs that carry it away. But the other creature stands alone, menacingly, partially hidden by the hair of the thunder-flame chicken. It stands protectively, deftly defying the laws of mortal creatures with it’s lidless, still eyes. It stands to monumentally harbor the darkened, swirling space between the two creatures, to intimidate those who dare look upon it. The relationship between these creatures became more fitting, suddenly, as I realized how tight they were.

I thought about what Berger said of people “situating ourselves in” our surrounding landscape. “How should I see you, chosen one?” I noticed I was standing where I should; I was standing in the little aisle and looking at the picture from the assumed position. So I decided to be a little unconventional about my viewing of this piece. After all, I was the only one in the gallery area. So I leaned to my left until I had the picture sideways. I leaned to the right now, laughing quietly at how I had been so easily subjective to the power of this picture and done its crazy bidding, leaning until I about knocked another sculpture out of place. Slightly mortified of how careless I had been, I decided to patrol the room. Like a guard protecting some hidden secret, I scoured the four corners of that little room guarding my little secret, always watching how the light seemed to hide some things and show others that I never would’ve noticed in my “normal” viewing area.

Again, from the far corner, I had a staring contest with the beastly painting. Again, I was compelled to get closer, the painting drawing me in. I fought back this time, resisting, even looking at other pictures to make my mysterious painting jealous. In the end, it won. I couldn’t resist turning back to meet the powerful colors of red, yellow, and (oddly enough) blue. This picture had me in it’s treacherously wonderful claws. And I didn’t mind. I rather enjoyed the experience. After looking like an idiot and a rather odd teenager, I decided this one couldn’t be more complex. It couldn’t mean more to me either. It was the perfect painting.

Berger was right. I agree with him. A person will perceive something differently based off their experiences. I watched multiple people walk by without even a change of expression on their face when they looked at it. I saw others feel the intriguing pull, the power this painting has. I know they felt it. How could they not? But they kept moving. It wasn’t until I talked to the curator that I found another person who felt the same intense pull I did. The gallery attendant herself actually experienced the power I had experienced for the past half hour. She tried to hide it. From who, I haven’t got a clue. But she tried. Only her desire to do her job kept her from falling under this incredible painting’s mighty spell.

Mr. Belanger created an incredibly powerful painting. Whether or not he realized the impact this would have on people when he put his idea into reality is out of the picture (no pun intended). It actually changed my mood. I felt like I had experienced a battle, an unimaginable war when I left. I felt experienced, wise, aged, changed. All for a bit of time at the art gallery.

Ladies and gentleman, I give to you for the second time Mr. Belanger’s Untitled #62:

Untitled #62

Ken Belanger

One Comment

  1. Your final draft of Looking at pictures was good. It was very informative and I like how you talk directly to the reader as though you were standing right in front of us. You seem to have liked this particular painting and enjoyed writing about it. Very well done, may the Force be with you!

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