Mural on side of a wall, downtown Trois-Rivières
On the lower left side, a passage from Proverbs 15: 33: "The fear of the Lord is the instruction of wisdom; and before honour is humility" (King James version). This is, I discovered, one of 11 "Fear of the Lord" biblical pronouncements listed on the Internet regarding "End Times" prophecies. I don't know if those thin orange spikes at earth's edge are meant to be souls being transported to heaven or missiles incinerating the planet (they could be fireworks or starbursts), or if the back of the man's head exploding out what looks like elongated, pointy blue pen-nibs, thin loopy wires and tiny crucifixes represents fear, wisdom, honor or humility. Everybody who looks at it sees something different. He doesn't look afraid to me. He meets the graphic disintegration of his skull with stoicism and resolve, exhibiting no more than a grimace or gritty flinch. Whatever, this warrior can take it.
Must art be interpreted? Absent the (explanatory?) reference scripted at the bottom of the mural, viewers, it seems come to entirely different impressions. One bystander, who could not decipher the English words, thought it had something to do with racism. He saw "a red man running". (Disclaimer: That I saw what looked like elongated, oddly formed pen nibs is only because I spent half an hour recently looking at pen nibs, all sizes and shapes, but none as uneven or exaggerated as those emanating from this painted man's head. I did not make this connection when I first took this photo two years ago. Which confirms that how we look at a thing, and what we see (of the same image or object, imagined or real) can change, over time. And not just objects or images, but people, ideas, beliefs, even ourselves.) Is that what they call 'evolving perception'? Perception that "grows", "matures", "evolves". So if someone's perception is closer to the truth of a thing, does that mean another's (less-than close) is less 'evolved'? And how, if at all, would that apply to the world of art?
The words of that proverb could apply, not just to the painting itself but to the response to this artist's creation: i.e., out of someone's need to reference Fear, comes Wisdom; out of a painted face on a wall, a hint of what Pride (which is not the same thing as Honor) might feel like; out of amazement at the unexpected insights a stumbled-upon created work of art can bring, Humility. (But somebody named Anonymous once said "When you become aware of your humility, you've lost it." I meant to say that the impact random resonances of images have on us is sometimes humbling. Hmmm ... Humility and humbling both start with a hum ... interesting.)
In the painting a bald man's head spews forth a gush of steely rods (or pen nibs), tiny crosses and thin steely loops heading West. My fingers stumble over keyboarded sentences to express this perception. Neither the annotated biblical reference the artist appended as a possible guide to the 'meaning' of his brush-stroked mural nor my probably quirky, very personal impressions have anything to do with evolution or truth, in the way most people think of those words. It is what it is. Period. (Why am I suddenly reminded of former Pres. Bill Clinton on the witness stand trying to debate what the word "is" is, ha ha.)
I like art that makes me wonder, that invites connections, that appeals to the ongoing dialogues in my head, that expands my perceptions. That draws me back to take a second, third, or fourth look at it. This is one such example. It is, if you're walking down the sidewalk in that part of town and hadn't seen it before, really very compelling.