See this little guy? It might be difficult to tell because of all the snow, but this is a statue of a beaver. He’s sitting on a bench and holding a hockey stick (he used to have a mug in his other hand but it vanished about a year ago). This little dude lives just down the street from me and I have very warm feelings toward him. I pat him on the nose every time I walk by and I smile at the sound that resonates through his hollow body.
What you can’t see in this image is that people have obviously been letting their dogs pee on his bench. The snow beside him is yellow and gross and makes me sad.
Don’t pee on other people’s art.
You shouldn’t do it, you shouldn’t let your dog do it.
I mean that literally as well as figuratively.
Even if it’s something you don’t personally feel connected to, something that doesn’t move you at all, you still shouldn’t piss on it. Someone put thought, energy and emotion into it. It may not matter to you, but it matters to them.
I had a rule, back when Niteblade used to do book reviews and that rule was ‘If you can’t find anything to like in a story, don’t review it’. Bad reviews are okay but tearing someone’s work to pieces just because you can is not. That’s pretty simple, pretty black and white. Sadly, there are so many different shades of grey involved as well.
For example, how many times have we all seen someone post something on social media (or elsewhere) that they think is amazing, that they have spent time and energy creating and the first comment is ‘Lawlz, you have too much time on your hands’. How dismissive. How rude. How painful.
How easy to do.
It’s ironic, perhaps, that I’d been planning to make this blog entry for a couple weeks now but hadn’t gotten around to it and then today I pissed on someone’s art.
I didn’t really mean to. It was an unthinking thing.
A friend on social media put out a call for people to ‘Like’ one of their friend’s photographs so they could win a contest of some sort. I ‘liked’ the photo and then commented on my friend’s wall about the three things I really liked about the picture and… the one I didn’t. The person in the photograph saw my comment and was hurt by it. She is not (as far as I know) a professional artist, not a pro photographer or model used to having her work critiqued. She is just a lady who modeled for a photograph (she may also have taken it, I’m not sure) and who missed the positives I said about the picture and focused on the negative.
It’s understandable. There is no reason she should have built up a thick skin to these sorts of things. She probably only expected friends and family to see the picture and find all the good in it and it was a photograph to which she had a strong emotional connection to.
I feel bad. I should know better. I really should. I considered before I made my comment whether I ought to share my opinion and decided to because I thought ‘It’s an entry in a contest in a public arena. Surely that means it’s okay for me to share my thoughts, especially since they are mostly positive’ but you know what? Not so much. I assumed a lot by deciding to post what I did, and that’s not fair. I pissed all over that lady’s art.
NAME REDACTED, if you happen to see this, I am sorry. It really is a beautiful photograph and beyond that I ought to have kept my opinion about it to myself.
It’s a tricky thing, I think, to find the balance between discussing art and pissing on it. I’m obviously still working on getting it right.
What about you? Do you have any sort of rules or tools you use to gauge when it’s better to hold your tongue?
(Photograph courtesy of Amanda Cornell)
ETA: I took the name of the person off my blog in response to her request in my comments.