Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Motive and Intent

The other day I drew, in colored pencil, a picture of a Digital Touch drawing I made a while ago. Digital Touch is a texting feature on an iPhone. The drawings are crude and they self-erase once sent/opened unless you elect to keep them. You draw them with your finger and when they replay for the recipient there is a glowing mark where your finger has been; the image appears as it was drawn. It's oddly intimate.

For days I have been wrestling with this question: can a work of art be honest or dishonest? What does that even mean? I have interrogated the little drawing because I made the drawing and posed the question on the same day. I have no answer yet. I am still trying to clarify the terms. I began to note words related to honesty: sincere, deceptive, genuine, impersonate, lie.

I lied about this little drawing. In the privacy of a draft of whatever I am still hashing out here, I claimed that I drew this colored pencil drawing because my phone was out of space and I was deleting old messages (including old digital drawings) I had saved. It is true that my phone was out of space, and true that I have been deleting messages. Maybe I did have the thought that I should draw this image before deleting it. And maybe I situated that fact next to the act of drawing. There is a gap between the truth and the whole truth. When I wrote that I drew this because I was deleting images, the polygraph needle trembled.

Motivation is complicated. In thinking about this I discovered a possible contraction in my motivation when making art in general. The impulse to make a drawing or painting is driven by the desire to internalize something and also to get rid of it. It can be a feeling, an attachment to a person, place, or story. When I draw something, I transfer the subject into my muscle memory, into my brain’s database. I internalize it.  But it also becomes something external I can stick in a drawer or give or throw away.  As of yet I have not figured out whether or not one can be honest in paint. 

The interrogating room in one’s head can be as exhausting. Sometimes confessions, false or true, happen as a result of sheer fatigue. I confess I made this drawing this image because it mattered to me. As for intentions, I don't know. 

The best way to tell the truth is to remain silent.

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