“She knows what’s going on
Seems we got a cheaper feel now
All the sweeties are gone
Gone to the other side
With my encyclopedia
They must’ve paid her a nice price
She’s putting on her string bean love
This is not really happening
You bet your life it is”
The above are lyrics to my favorite Tori Amos song, “Cornflake Girl” from 1994’s Under the Pink. Can you tell, from these words, why it’s my favorite? Isn’t it obvious what the lyrics mean? In a word, no. Nope. Not at all. To this day I’m not sure what they mean, really. Song lyrics are like that. They are subjective, which means people see the meaning they want to see in them. The same song can be truly meaningful to two people for completely different reasons.
The same is true for abstract art. It’s subjective. People literally see what they want to when they look at it. It may be the same vision the artist had when creating it or it may be radically different. In the same way people can connect with weird lyrics (and let’s face it; many of Amos’ lyrics are downright cryptic) people can also connect with a piece of abstract art. That’s either frustrating or freeing. The comment I often hear about Chris’ work is “But – what IS it?”. Those are the people that tend to get frustrated by the lack of anything figurative in a piece. On the flip side are the people who enjoy the experience that a piece of abstract art can give them. It doesn’t matter that it’s not defined by the artist because it’s a collaborative experience. What does it mean? You tell me. Personally it’s why abstract art is my favorite. And it’s why Tori Amos has been one of my favorite musicians my whole adult life. Even if I don’t think her lyrics mean what she does, I still love her songs.
When creating a painting, Chris says he imagines his works are like classical or instrumental music, without words but full of emotion and feeling. So…what does the piece below mean to you?