Whatever curious and interesting subject strikes my fancy, be it silly or serious, gets posted for your reading pleasure.

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Your "Mona Lisa" Quote - Author, Explain Yourself!

Everyone once in awhile someone sends me a question about my work, which is all part of being an author.  

However, I also get pleas for assistance, asking me what did I mean by such-and-such a quote?  "I'm writing an essay, or dissertation, would appreciate your additional comments  or an explanation why you wrote that!"

And yes, it is obvious they have not read the book the quote has come from, or they wouldn't need to ask me why a quote is in the book and what it means, or what page it is on.  Some people even say so!  "Sorry, I haven't read your book, I would LOVE to read it someday, but if you could help me with this quote, and if you could tell me the page number it's on..."

Oh well. Because I'm trying to be a good person and not flip out when someone is asking me to do their research for them, especially as I recall what it was like being a student with the insane pressure of numerous final exams bearing down like a hammer on an anvil, I sometimes give an answer.  (I know, I know, I shouldn't), but here goes, the latest e-mail I received was a request to please explain the "Mona Lisa" quote in "Brushstrokes of a Gadfly".

Here is my response:
Dear John / Jane Doe,

The book is a Kunstlerroman novel depicting an artist's coming of age and as such features a Masters student, how she makes her way in the world after she has graduated from an exclusive arts humanities and college in New Jersey State. 
As part of the graduation ceremonies and traditions there is a special art competition sponsored by the famous Sirrac Gallery of Fifth Avenue that awards an enviable exhibition opportunity to the Masters student whom the judges deem has rendered exceptional work in representing the subject or theme chosen for the competition each year by the gallery.

Katherine Walsingham, the main character of the novel, is disappointed in how her entry is received, while what she deems to be 'insipid' and 'predictable' has been given the greatest honours. To add injury to insult, her work for the contest is ripped to shreds by an infamous art critic of New York known as the “Art Hacker” who has been known to make or break careers, which is just intolerable! Since she has the mind of a 'Socratic gadfly', she questions everything that 'The Establishment' and 'The Gatekeepers' hail as 'fine art', especially modern art, which can be ugly and quite atrocious in her view, while dramatic and beautiful works are relegated to the side or completely ignored.

After seeing the review, (which throws her whole family into a tizzy, it's that controversial), Katherine questions how people such as the college professors, modern gallery owners, and critics like the “Art Hacker” are allowed to dictate what is the epitome of 'fine art' and what should be considered famous or not, and in the process has also questioned why the “Mona Lisa” of all art works holds power over people.

I shall gave some of the text before and after the quote so you can see the context, beginning with her younger brother Stephen, or 'Steves' as he's called, the brainy genius of the family who doesn't quite take art very seriously but more of a slacker's hobby that might make an income once in awhile, (which also peeves Katherine sometimes). He thinks the scathing review misinterpreting her work in a foul light is actually a good thing!

* Beginning of excerpt *

Let me see that article. Hmm, pretty good review, I think.”

“Steves! It’s not funny! How could you call it a good review? It’s horrible!”

“Now, sis, you shouldn’t have chosen art for a career if you can’t take the criticism, it’s part of the territory. Look, if you give a speech to fifty people in a room, they will repeat what they heard, not what you said. Art is in the eye of the beholder, and everyone will have their own interpretation. The review is good from the standpoint you have received some great publicity. Bad publicity is good publicity, after all.”

“Everyone is so upset, and I don’t want my work misinterpreted to this extent. I may not agree with everything that happens in the world, but I am not an anarchist or a religion-basher! Perhaps I should write a letter to the editor explaining the true symbolism, and make sure from now on I add a commentary to my works somehow … .”

Their mother nodded in agreement with this last suggestion.

“I wouldn’t, sis.”

“Why not?” the ladies chimed. Steves sighed with impatience.

“Well, you take away the thrill of discovery. If you explain everything for everyone, nobody will want to look further and study the work. It’s the unknown that draws people. Remember what you told us about the Mona Lisa, if da Vinci revealed why and how he painted it, would they still be gaping at it today, trying to figure it out?”

“No, I suppose not. That really is the ugliest portrait I’ve seen, the only thing that supposedly makes it famous is the mystery behind it,” Katherine admitted as she remembered her trips to the Louvre and how she shook her head at the poor tourists crowding around to see a jaundiced, eyebrow-less lady that reminded her of tight-lipped Washington on the dollar bill. Surely, they could have chosen a better portrait of the First President for their currency?

“Exactly. Take away the ambiguity, and nobody would pay two cents to see it. Let people try to fathom the meaning of something, and the mystery grows. So let certain misunderstandings and misinterpretations run wild, for there will always be those who want to see the work for themselves, and see it exactly as you intended. The more controversial a work is and talked about, the more famous it becomes.”

“How will I be able to handle the onslaught until they figure it out?” Katherine mused in dismay.” (…)

(End of Excerpt)

Katherine has visited the Louvre several times, and to see an eyebrowless woman that looks like she's suffering from jaundice get all the attention of all the crowding, oogling tourists that walk past all the other masterpieces as though they were only worth a footnote in the annals of Art galls her! Plus, the fact the most common note in their currency, the one dollar bill, has a unflattering portrait of President Washington that looks just like the “Mona Lisa” is another sore point!

 (C'mon, we've all thought about it!) 

(Washington can't even believe it.)

Of course Katherine will still continue on her personal philosophical quest to discover how the elements of “Mystery”, “Beauty” and “Truth” make a masterpiece, and at the same time do her best to battle against the strange paradox of how such 'ugly' pieces of work capture worldwide fame and attention simply because the 'Establishment' has made them famous.

She has some high-minded principles of her own, and the novel explores how she tries to put them into action in the 'real world' when she opens her own gallery and is confronted with 'Art as Business' and 'Art as Investment', paradoxes that clash with the philosophical ideals of 'Beauty' and 'Truth' associated with High Art. Yes, Katherine can be an annoying, but hopefully a lovable idealistic perfectionist, hence she stings like a gadfly. Sometimes, she is successful, other times she finds herself coming down off her high horse as the expression goes. (In the meantime, Life and Romance gets in the way of everything...which is a whole other ball game!)

Get your copy of Brushstrokes of a Gadfly today!

(Also, a sequel to Brushstrokes is in the works, you can find out a little more about it by clicking here.)  Stay tuned...!


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