Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Art Doesn’t Imitate Life, It Reflects It

Wow. How awesome is this? A good friend who happens to be an inspirational speaker/blogger wrote a blog about little ole' me, well about my art more so than me. I love knowing my art inspires people to think differently. Be sure to check out his website and blog www.baylorbarbee.com

Art Doesn’t Imitate Life, It Reflects It

by Baylor Barbee

I used to hate art. I laughed at the thought of anyone paying money to see some painted scribbles on a page. I scoffed at the idea of going to a museum and just staring at, and even worse, “admiring” the work of the artists. Don’t even get me started on my thoughts on “abstract” art, aka (as I used to think) a bunch of random colors with no rhyme or reason, all flung together on a canvas. If you’re like me, you probably thought the same thing, “I can do that.”

Boy was I wrong. A few years ago, I attempted my first painting, you can read about it here, and it gave me a new appreciation for art. Over the past few years, I’ve come to admire the work of Jean-Michel Basquiat, Jackson Pollock, and a host of other painters.

I had the unique opportunity recently to visit the Jackson Pollock Exhibit at the Dallas Museum of Art with one of my personal favorite artists, Geordanna. As I stared at multi-million dollar paintings such as Convergence, which to the naked eye looks like a bunch splattered paint everywhere, she gave me something I had not really seen in art previously – Perspective.

On the caption of a certain painting, Jackson Pollock said, “I like to use a dripping, fluid paint…the method of painting is a natural growth out of need. I want to express my feelings rather than illustrate them. Technique is just a means of arriving at a statement.”

Wait what? Method?! “You mean to tell me it’s not just random paints and colors on a canvas with a high price tag?” I asked myself. I want the same thing in my art, whether it be speaking or writing – to express in an authentic manner my story, not just illustrate it. Geordanna proceeded to fill me on the process of how abstract art is made.

As she explained to me the different brush strokes, some in dark splotches, which indicated the artist was very near the canvas, to the small sprays of color, which indicated the artist most likely dripped paint from a tall ladder, I began to see the painting in a whole new light. I saw how the various colors weaved in and out of each other as if it were knitted together intentionally. This wasn’t random paint, this was strategic; it told a story. After staring at that painting for at least 30 minutes, everything started to make sense.

All of this “random color and dysfunction” that I previously saw… was that way only because I choose to see it only as that. How many times in your life has someone looked at your life or your situation and saw it as a colorful mess, but had they known what you were really dealing with or what you were working toward, would view you completely differently? We’ve all been mislabeled haven’t we? Inside the beautiful mess of your life is a story, it just takes someone with a great perspective to see it doesn’t it?

All of the sudden, it’s as if all of the paintings on the walls of the museum started talking to me. They started telling me the stories, pain, triumphs and tragedies of the artists who created them. It was truly one of those rare lightbulb “aha” moments in life.

In that moment, I realized the reason I didn’t like art growing up was for two reasons 1) I didn’t ­­­­­understand it 2) I didn’t understand myself.

The second one might not make sense, but let me explain. For days, I literally sat on my computer looking at all the abstract art that I liked and some that I didn’t – looking at it with this new perspective.

A few weeks after the exhibit, I got a chance to go visit Geordanna in her Dallas Studio, because I had more questions and needed more insight. I started to see parallels between painting and what I do as a speaker, author, and entertainer. She told me, “People don’t view art for what it is, they see art for who they are.”

Wow. That stuck with me. She told me how someone would look at one of her pieces and say “oh I see a dark, troubled, turmoil” emotion, while someone else would look at the same piece and say, “I love how vibrant and alive the painting is.” Again, it’s not the painting that changed, it’s the perspective.

Think about your life right now. Is it possible that some of the people or situations you don’t like might possibly be just because of your current perspective, not a finite truth? Aren’t there those out there who don’t like you simply because they are viewing you through the negative lens in which they view the world? Do certain people avoid you or talk down on you simply because they don’t understand you or your passion? That happens to me daily and I’m sure it happens to you as well.

She talked in depth about perspective and how art really reflects not only the heart of the painter, but more importantly, the soul of the viewer. I glanced around her studio at all the different paintings, canvases, paints, brushes, and easels. There I saw one of, if not my favorite piece of art…ever. Not just my favorite piece of hers, but my favorite piece ever.

It ranks right there above my personal favorites:

“The Guitarist” by Pablo Picasso

“Crown” by Jean-Michel Basquiat

“Echo: Number 25, 1951” by Jackson Pollock

It’s one thing to view art online, it’s a whole different experience to view it in person. The painting said so much to me. My mindset went from “oh that’s a beautiful piece” when I first saw it online to “I HAVE TO HAVE THIS.” I see how collectors become collectors.

I asked her, what were you thinking about when you made this piece “Love in the Dark?” Rather than tell me what she was feeling when she created it, she asked me, “What do you see?”

Isn’t that an anecdote for life? The fact that it’s not really about what we create, but how others view it that really shapes the interactions and relationships we have with people, whether that be relationships, clients, or cultures. The more of our authentic selves we lend to our art or passion, the more accurately others can see themselves through our work.

After thinking about it for a while, I realized that the reason I loved this particular piece so much is that when I don’t try and “look” at the painting or try and direct my thoughts to what it kind of looks like, (as I often do in most situations in life,) and instead just let the art speak for itself through this lens of self-reflection, I see myself in this painting. It’s me.

I see The dark hues of blue representing the mistakes I’ve made in the past. But those dark hues also serve as a strong bold foundation for the rest of the piece to sit on. My mistakes, both in relationships, business, and life have shaped the platform that has allowed me to speak all over the country and share my thoughts in books that have become best-sellers. I see the other blue hues going up and down, sometimes left and right as if not sure of the direction they want to go, but understanding that they will never go too far up, and never go too far down – that balance is necessary.

I’m at a point in my career and personal life, where I’m on that brand new canvas. Speaking to crowds and Fortune 500’s that I never would have dreamed of getting to speak to. I’m “up” with the opportunities, but also taking the heartbreaks and things that fall through in stride by realizing that it takes both the up and the down stroke in art to make a complete picture. The sideways brush strokes and thinning light blue hues to me represent expansion, taking new risks, but still coming back to my core principle – faith and inspiring hope before I spread myself to thin.

The parts of the painting where there are many strokes and directions end up being darker. I think my mind is like this. When I have too much going on and my thoughts are everywhere, I get beat down much like the entry room rug of a house with many visitors. This reminds me to keep my mind clear as much as possible as to not get worn down or turn dark.

The gold strokes represent opportunity to me. I look at the painting from a three dimensional view. If you saw it in person, you’d see that the gold paint is on top of the blue, representing the opportunity to turn my pain and mistakes into golden opportunities. It reminds me that these opportunities will only come by staying authentic and true to my craft. If I were to vary who I am, (change colors), then I wouldn’t get the same beautiful portrait or life.

Finally, I love the white paint right in the center of the piece. You probably had to look twice to see it didn’t’ you? To me this represents God being there for me at the center piece of my life, even when I fail to recognize or acknowledge him. When I’m caught somewhere between who I was (blues – mistakes) and where I want to be (golds – opportunities), He’s right there over and underneath both, guiding me, directing me, and shaping my life to be what He created it to be – His Masterpiece.

Remember, “Art is not to be seen, it’s to be felt.” – Geordanna

… and such is life.

And now I ask you – What Do you see when you look at the painting? What does that say about where you are in your life? I look forward to hearing your answers.

Check out Geordanna’s collections at:






Update: I’m proud to announce that I’m now the proud new owner of the original “Love in the Dark” piece that I’ve described above. I’m so glad to join the ranks of some of the most premier hotels and office buildings in Dallas as an owner of original Geordanna Art.

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