One of the things I enjoy most about selling at art markets is observing people interacting with my images. This past weekend I was selling at a three-day market in my neighbourhood, in a large gym with about 50 other artists. The majority of the other art was pictorial paintings of various sorts, so my corner of abstract photography was something different. (As ever.) Instead of a table full of cards as is usual for my market-selling adventures, this time we all had space to hang larger pieces, and I was able to bring some of the 24x36 prints I had made for an exhibit last year. A different experience for me, having the opportunity to see the effect of my work in large format upon unsuspecting market wanderers.
There were the glances in passing, some longer than others; the pauses and acknowledgement before moving on without engaging in conversation. But then there were the people who were drawn in for a closer look, all with a somewhat similar puzzled expression. Those conversations were so varied and interesting; after the requisite questions of what am I looking at / is that photography? / how do you do that? were answered, I inquired as to what drew the mind to a certain image, what they saw in it, what it said to them. The image above garnered a wide variety of visual interpretations, from elephant bums to jellyfish to a cushion to melting paint. Also an equally variety of sense interpretations, from peacefulness and comfort to restlessness to haunting, to “I’m not sure, but I want to look at it for a long while”. (There was also a wealth of excitement, disbelief, blown minds, and excited children proclaiming “these pictures are EPIC!”, continuing the trend of my work connecting with young minds, which is awesome.)
Along with these visual and sense interpretations came the inner thoughts, the mental and emotional connections that were happening as they contemplated my pictures. The mind who wanted to gaze upon one and get lost in meditation; the minds who connected the visuals to the feeling of regaining a capacity after an illness and impairment; the mind who stated, “I’m not really interested in art, but…” and went on to draw parallels to creativity and artfulness in their own work in a different subject, immediately disproving their statement; the young minds who I hope wandered away full of creative inspiration and curiosity after conversations around the joy of experimentation and trying anything and everything. When these images connect with open channels in the mind, cross connections are made, energy flows to new realms of thought, and some expansion happens, however small. I love these moments.
And then there were the gazes and contemplations where you can tell a connection is happening that is new, different, perhaps difficult or challenging. The puzzled expressions, the flashes of thought in the eyes, the slight moment of mind forgetting it’s connected to a body as it becomes absorbed with examination; brief stillnesses as the art reaches in and connects with some deep part of the soul. Those moments of bewildering bubbling and rapid-fire whizzing of new connections, the dredging of old connections, the disjointed zaps of synapses, the revealing of thought or void - those are the moments where art thrives. Especially abstract art. And surrounding those moments are conversations of great fascination to me, when words are sought but not quite found. Feelings are awakened, unable yet to be identified. Something is being worked out behind conscious thought. I also love these moments - not to draw out what’s in process, but to hold space for the process.
My journey as an artist is one of discovery and exploration. Partner to that is my journey as a person, which has led me down a path of similar discovery and exploration, but in the realm of counselling and coaching. I am coming to realize that the two paths are not so different - with my images, I am able to challenge, connect, and hold space in much the same way I would in conversation. Images, though, in certain moments, seem capable of far more incisive reach than even the most empathic human connection, and I am incredibly grateful to have the space to explore the visual realm in this way, and the market days to observe it in action.
To everyone I meet at market events: if you happen to pop by and read this blog, thank you for the conversations. You are part of this journey, and I am thankful.