But Is It Art?



I was at the doctor’s office the other day (just a check-up) and as I waited in the examination room I studied the sole painting hanging on the wall. It appeared to be a European scene, a stone home’s exterior with a mottled landscape in the background. There was a tile roof and various potted plants. It was rather typical in its style and I suppose the intent was to show the viewer a bucolic scene, to trigger a longing for that place.


I’ve been going to the same doctor for years, and his art hasn’t changed. So this little painting is somewhat familiar to me. And I just can’t help it, but I’ve never cared for it. I’ve not known why and honestly – I’ve tried to figure it out! I’m not overly critical of it. It’s office art. Nothing more, nothing less. I highly doubt it’s of personal value to my doctor. I’m fairly certain it’s part of some bulk purchase designed to accessorize an entire office suite. I mean, it sort of matches the other art I’ve grown used to seeing there over the years.


Anyhoo, as I sat waiting for the doc, I studied the painting and really tried to dissect its composition. And I think I finally figured out what irks me about the danged thang: the light source isn’t defined. In other words, there is clearly a setting sun in the distance, hidden behind the house. And the light from that sun hits certain edges of the building and the stone fence. It also casts shadows where it should. But then there is some other light source shining upon a different side of the house, casting shadows where it ought not. As the entire scene is set in daylight, the second light source makes no sense.


Once I figured out the lighting snafu, I understood my disdain for the painting. And while in the end it really doesn’t matter what I think – for a variety of reasons – it did make me happy to have deciphered the problem. And to know I’m being taught by someone to never make that sort of mistake.