Tell Me a Story–

I am fascinated by the concept of “Story” in a painting.  Painting and writing have a great deal in common.  Both are a kind of story.  Both exist in an enclosure of some kind.  A painting has a frame, and the framed area is chosen by the artist who is painting her/his story.  A written story has a literary construct of some kind–chapter 1, chapter 2, etc.  Both end when the artist/writer conclude that the story  constructed is the one they wanted to tell and nothing further needs to be added.

So I’m wondering–is the intrinsic value of a painting based, in part, on the story being told, and does the best storyteller/painter have the most success?

For example, WSI member and watercolor artist Stephen Edwards tells many stories in his many paintings, and I find many of them to be very compelling.

The painting that is pictured here is titled “Little Artist in Repose.”  Stephen has titled the story so that I know what he wants me to see.  There may be more to the story, though.  The child still holds a crayon as he sleeps. Was he just tired of his “art,” or was he just tired?  The setting is a story, too.  I see bright light, a sofa or daybed, a pillow off to the left.  Is the child asleep in the artist’s studio?  In his own room?  So many stories.

Nationally known watercolor artist Mary Whyte, who, by the way, will be teaching a workshop in Indianapolis in September (you can check her website for more information), posted a painting on her Facebook page in memory of Memorial Day.  It’s titled “Tending,” and she added the following quotation from Joseph Campbell: “A hero is someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself.”

The story for me is who is this “Tending” woman, and what is she tending?  Graves, obviously, but whose grave(s)?  Does she have family buried here, or on Memorial Day does she tend all of the graves?  Is it significant that she is a woman of color tending these graves?  If so, why does that matter?  I think it’s significant that I do not see her face. so she becomes, for me, a “Tender” of all people, all races, all heroes.

Are paintings better if they tell a story?  I think maybe they are, but that’s just my opinion.