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How much explanation of one’s work is too much?

Immediately upon entering Tastyspace’s group show You Don’t Know Me, I’m pulled in by the vibrant color palette of a Joe Watson piece. Gazing at “The Sequence,” I take note of the daisy emerging in the center, despite a haze of vermillion smog, seeking the green and light above. Triumph and growth despite adversity flashes across my mind. A short text is offered below:

“Emergence is the inspiration for my piece,” writes Watson. “This piece references an unstable beginning in life with a hidden creative ability … Inner creativity was difficult to keep alive, but survived the harsh times.”

Nailed it! But what if I’d thought something different? Would I then be wrong? Like having an explication printed next to a poem, hanging the artist’s explanation next to their work interrupts the precognitive sensual absorption of the visuals. Explanatory texts can offer helpful and enjoyable insights into the work, but it can also be counterproductive, proscribing a set meaning to a piece and eliminating the viewer’s opportunity to discover its mysteries for themselves. Per the premise of the exhibit, a number of the texts in You Don’t Know Me included fun anecdotes that added to the viewing experience. But they went on too long and gave away too much.

Perhaps artists should take a cue from magicians: When discussing their tricks, they should keep an ace up their sleeve and a secret or two under their hat.

Tastyspace, at Emergency Arts, 520 Fremont St., Suite 150, tastyspacelv.com