I was asked to teach a weekend class to high school students called Experimental Painting. One doesn't really think about a word like experimental until they are thrown in a lab coat or they are watching old Boris Karloff movies. I was left wondering what experimentation even means. What does it mean in reference to painting? The definition seems innocent enough at first: "(of a new invention or product) based on untested ideas or techniques and not yet established or finalized." Experiment on the other hand seems much more approachable. Of the two terms, it certainly has all of the charisma: "a scientific procedure undertaken to make a discovery, test a hypothesis, or demonstrate a known fact." I then was left trying to relate the word experimental to the creative process. At the outset it seems fine. Everyone attempts to make work that is inherently new and different, however, do any of us make things that are on the regular, "not yet established or finalized?" Who of us has made something that does not neatly fit into some curator's little catalog of monikers?
It does seems that perhaps a painter could experiment. Why wouldn't we, as artists and people, attempt to make new discoveries and test our own beliefs on a regular basis? It is part of the responsibility of being human.
This led me to think of the word experimental once again. I decided to break it down into its parts. If you cut the word in half it becomes "Experi" and "mental." I took the liberty of translating "experi" into experience since the word is almost there to begin with. Mental already makes sense without me trying to decipher it. This left me with "Experience Mental." Now all that was left was to flip flop the words and I had "mental experience."
I was left with painting leading a student through a mental experience. This makes a lot more sense to me even if it is not what the description in the course catalog is suggesting. Painting takes me through mental experiences on a regular basis. I think out every important detail of my life while ensconcing myself in surface after surface. The process is cathartic. This is not even to mention that by analyzing something, painting that thing, and then looking at the painting may make an individual realize that what they see and recognize as thing a or thing b, may not be that essence of thing a or thing b at all. Because as we look at things long enough, we realize what we are really looking at. Preconceived notions fall by the wayside. Is that what I am supposed to be teaching? I don't think so.
This piece has totally messed with my mental state. I am love with it even though I'm fairly certain that right now it may in fact hate me. We're fighting. It doesn't want to be done next Thursday even though it needs to be. My mental is experienced. Thanks Jimi.