You use a glass mirror to see your face; you use works of art to see your soul. – George Bernard Shaw
Many times, artists bury nougats of truth about themselves or about what they are thinking in their art and their writing. Symbolism–it’s a clever game. You say one thing, but you mean another, and the odd thing is that you really want people to figure what that other thing is all about. Often, what the viewer actually sees or reads in an artist’s work is only a tiny part of what the artist is saying.
It is rather like the silly game that is played by petty wives. When their husbands hurt their feelings or if their husbands forget birthdays or anniversaries, the wives sulk. The husband asks, “What’s wrong?”
“But I know something is wrong.”
Even though the woman protests that something has upset her, she behaves as though something has, and she wants the husband to guess what that something is. It is as though the true test of love is clairvoyance. The wife is implying that if the husband can see deep into her soul, he truly loves her, and he wins the game.
When I was married, I wanted nothing more than for my husband to stop on a deserted lot and to pick me bunches of wildflowers or daisies or red clover or whatever else that he could find. But he never did. A smarter wife would have simply said, “I need flowers from you at least once per month.” But in my mind, that would have ruined the whole thing. I needed for my ex-husband to intuitively know that I needed flowers–even free flowers–at least once per month. I seemed to believe that if another person could see deeply into my soul, and if he could decipher all of my wants and my needs, he would be my one, true love. No doubt, that is one reason that I am divorced.
I play that same kind of game with my art and writing. About 15 years ago, I wrote a group of short verses about flowers. My idea was to illustrate each flower and to publish the book of paintings and verses together, and I would call the volume Garden Songs. [Shhhh! I didn’t just tell you that. I still plan to do it. But like so many other things, I simply haven’t gotten it done].
Keep in mind that I want all of the poems to be very short so that they don’t detract from the paintings that will be the true focus of the page. Even though the verses are short, however, I want them to have greater meaning. I want the verses and the images to be symbols for greater truths. Here is the poem that I wrote about Snapdragons:
The Painted Parade
by Jacki Kellum
Watch the painted parade,
With bold and biting dragons,
Teasing all the toddlers—even me!
They’re really just pretending.
Everyday’s a New Year,
A fun and festive firework jamboree.
© Painted Parade Jacki Kellum October 19, 2015
My grandmother always had snapdragons in her garden, and I used to love to pinch the snapdragons and allow them to bite me or at least close around the tip of my finger and nibble me. When I heard the dragon part of the word “snapdragon,” I thought about the Dragon Dance in the Chinese New Year’s Parade, and that provided me a springboard into what would become part of my greater meaning.
On one level, the poem is simply about a colorful bed of flowers that have the capacity to nibble at my fingertips–like a biting dragon, the “dragon” part of the word “snapdragon.” On another level, the parade is talking about the non-scary, scary dragon in a Chinese parade. But on the deepest level, my poem is about something entirely different.
When I said, “Watch the Painted Parade,” I was actually chastising all of the people around me that I thought were being pretentious, wearing masks, and playing games.
My simple, little ditty about Snapdragons was actually a symbol for the way that I felt deep within myself about people who are fake. I do this type of thing all of the time. In other words, what you think that you see in my art and in my writing, is not all that there actually is. My art and my writing are only the tips of an iceberg that lies deeply within me.
Now, here is the silly part: I actually want my viewer and my reader to know what I am thinking, but just like a silly wife, I want you to guess what that is. My art and my writing are keys to some of the gems that I keep locked inside myself.
. You use a glass mirror to see your face; you use works of art to see your soul. – George Bernard Shaw
©Jacki Kellum October 24, 2016