Tuesday, June 27, 2006


Naive is a term that art muckety-mucks use to describe an untrained artist. It means that the art is unsophisticated, simple, and lacks perception (usually). Henri Rousseau is one of the most widely known of the naive artists. What Rousseau lacked in technical skill, he more than made up for in design and imagination. His paintings were well collected during his lifetime, but too often he undervalued his own paintings, trading them for a simple meal.

Rousseau started painting at age 40 because he loved it. He seemed to keep an innocence about life that translated well into the fanciful paintings he produced. His paintings often have a yin yang quality, balancing danger and innocence. "The Sleeping Gypsy" is perhaps his most well known work. In it we see an idyllic desert moonlit night, a gypsy asleep after perhaps singing for his supper, and an ominous looking lion, the king of beasts just casually sniffing the gypsy. Am I reading too much into the painting to suggest that the lion represents a harsh world ready to devour us, and the sleeping gypsy is an innocent, a naive, perhaps Rousseau himself, who still is drinking from the elixir of life, is happy and content and has found peace in the world?

As a non-academically trained, and more precisely self-taught, I fall into the category of being a naive artist.

Last week was rife with inspiration. I met new people, tasted new food, saw new places, and learned new words. I'm really excited about a few paintings in the works because of these new influences. Another thing I learned about myself last week was that not only am I naive with regard to art, I am also naive with regard to people. My husband and I spent a few days in an unique environment, and more and more we found ourselves extremely naive to our surroundings. Suffice it to say that I am inordinately naive.

Maybe perceptions change as we age. Maybe when life knocks us around a bit, we become "sophisticated," I don't know. Is it so wrong to be naive? Is it better to be schooled so much that we lose our joy of life? Would it be better to be afraid of the lion or blissfully unaware of it's existence?

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