“Looking At People Looking At Art”

An early Picasso
A Cubist work
Hangs on the wall
Of a large museum.

A young boy
Tilts his head
As he stares
At the treasure.
I see fingers
He shouts.
Letters
His brother mutters.
M-A.
J-O-L-I-E
A friend reads.

Ma Jolie
A woman says.
It means
My pretty girl
In French.

Doesn’t look pretty to me
A tweenager
In a smock smirks.
It’s brown
And it isn’t
A picture
Of anything.
Just crookedy lines.

An old man
Moves close
And squints.
Ma Jolie
He says.
It’s the name
Of a popular song
That was famous
When Picasso created
This painting
Of Woman With A Guitar.

Crazy name
For a crazy painting
A man
With red hair says.
His friend
In a brown business suit
Points to some lines
On the canvas.
That looks like a face
He muses.
The cynic
With the red hair
Shakes his head
No.
It’s an open coat hanger.

Look over there.
A third man
Jumps in.
There’s an arm.
And a torso.
And guitar strings.
I don’t see those things.
A woman
In a tennis skirt
And sneakers
Challenges him.
They’re just lines.
Made with a ruler.

A young man
Dressed
In paint-splattered
Overalls
Pokes his companion.
Looks like the board
I wipe my brushes on
Between jobs.
Encouraged
By the laughter
Of others
He air-paints
In front
Of the masterpiece.

The redheaded man
Pushes his friend
Toward the doorway.
Let’s get out of here
He says.
There are
Great nudes
In the next gallery.

The art teacher
Who chaperoned
The young students
Lingers for a moment.
The colors in the painting
Are dull
She thinks.
But the planes
Push forward
Then retreat
To fade
Into the background.

Certain areas glow
With the luminescence
Of sunlight.
Others sing
With the rich umber
Of fertile soil
And belie
The artist’s
Attempt to reduce
His subject
To a two-dimensional design.

Beauty is indeed
In the eye
Of the beholder
She thinks
As she hurries to catch up
With the members
Of her sixth-grade class
Who had followed
The business-suited men
To the next gallery
To stare at the backs
Of curvaceous
Naked bathers.

(Posted on Open Link Night, dVerse. October 3, 2012.)

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This entry was posted in Flash Fiction, Micro Fiction, Poetry, Short Fiction, Short Story and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

15 Responses to “Looking At People Looking At Art”

  1. Dick Jones says:

    This is a wonderful account of the perception of a painting from many angles. Its still, measured language puts me in mind of Jacques Prévert. Great stuff!

  2. I love this account! Not having an eye for art in sixth grade either, I can probably identify with your descriptions. If it didn’t look real…it wasn’t real.Thank goodness some of us grew up and matured only to understand, accept, and admire the great artists of that time… unlike the adults you described.

  3. smiles…i like this much…yes…beauty is in the eye of the beholder and eveyone sees something different in a painting or a piece of art ..and i like it much when they’re honest.. cause i think that’s one of the beautiful things about art, it makes us honest, often hits us unprepared and mirrors always a bit of our soul…very cool verse… i know that painting you’re talking about..way cool

    • vb holmes says:

      You can tell a great deal about people by what they see in art. Whether it’s as simple as a positive or negative reaction to the subject matter of a representational piece or an interpretation of an abstraction, it’s subjective, determined by their own personal frame of reference. I enjoyed the juxtaposition of prose and poetry in your “As if we knew the ways of the wind”–very effective, your images live.

  4. brian miller says:

    hahaha….the kids off to see the nudes…and thta will be what they tell their parents tonight as well…pretty cool to get into this conversation as it fascinates me what others see in art when they look at it…i dunno that any are wrong just a different perspective so i think that is cool…

    • vb holmes says:

      Very true–while one’s interpretation may be at odds with the artist’s, it’s still valid. That’s why the appreciation of art is so good for the soul.

  5. This was excellent.. you lured me in with your images and then slowed me to a pause with your reflection of the art.. I loved this!

  6. ManicDdaily says:

    Of course, the crazy thing here is that many Picasso paintings are nearly 100 years old! So not truly modern! Ha. k.

  7. vb holmes says:

    It’s probably safe to say that all of today’s artists (who are not working in isolation) have benefited in some way from the radical changes which occurred in the art world during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Picasso’s early works may not be chronologically “modern”, but they are still valid today. I enjoyed your heartrending “In Honor” of “Half the Sky”. It’s hard to believe honor killings are still practiced in today’s world.

  8. David Eric Cummins says:

    I love this! Ironically, I’m going to an art show in just a few hours to see if anyone understands the pair of abstract pieces I’ve entered. I often think about how different people perceive my artwork.

    • vb holmes says:

      Quickly scanned your blog and didn’t see any examples of your paintings. Good luck with your show and I hope you have some good conversations (and a sale or two?).

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