Last week Blue Girl put up about quick post about George Bush's now infamous painting, "A Charge to Keep". Bush apparently got the wrong message from the painting. Yesterday, Lance Mannion had up a post saying he felt it was ok to take your own meaning from a piece of work. We all have our own myths... I agreed with both posts.
I cringed when I read about Bush’s beliefs about the painting… not so much because he had misinterpreted it, but because I thought he was telling people that was what it was about. I thought he was spouting off again in an area where he was wrong and there was proof that he was wrong, but he didn’t care, or he was the Decider and God had told him what it really meant.
I have absolutely no problems with works inspiring something in a person that had nothing to do with the original work. That’s what makes the world go round. We can’t know what is going to touch someone and what feelings it will stir.
I bought a painting a number of years ago… a small antique of hound dogs sniffing the ground in front of a large tree trunk. I love dogs. I loved how these dogs were done. I loved the tree and the sky. It so reminded me of a tree that was at the edge of our backyard and the sky, that impossible pinkish/brown/gray, was a late December sky at about 4:30 in the afternoon when you knew it was just going to dump a ton of snow. That is what I think of when I look at that painting. The dogs make me think of my old pound hound, Wilson, and the setting looks like I could be looking out back of my childhood home, waiting and hoping for snow.
If you look very closely at this painting, you will also see fox hunters on horses. They are so small and so inconsequential that I didn't even notice them at first. They are by no means the focal point of the painting... but if truth be known, it is a painting of a fox hunt. I hate fox hunting. Hate, hate, hate it, and yet, I love this painting and what it means to me. This painting was painted in 1898 by some obscure English artist named Nelson Browne. I always kind of hoped that he would somehow know that the person he was painting this for wasn't even alive yet and wouldn't be for quite some time, but that she was very glad he had painted it and she would be taking it to the nursing home with her when the time came.
I hate that Bush is so often wrong. I hate that he doesn't seem to care that he is wrong. He'll be wrong again many times I'm sure, but you can't be wrong about what a piece of artwork means to you. It may not be what was intended, it may be 180 degrees off the mark, but that's part of the magic.