When Sam was in grade two, his class learned about the dot art technique. He came home with a drawing he made at school that day, and proudly showed his parents after supper.
“That’s a fine looking pig in a party hat,” said his mom, Cara, who turned to Sam’s dad. “ Isn’t it, Glenn?” Sam’s dad looked at the drawing and nodded. “Good job, Sam,” he said and took a bite of his dessert pie.
Sam said, “It’s not a pig in a party hat. It’s a turkey.”
His parents looked back at the drawing.
Cara said, “where is the turkey? Is he hiding behind the pig?”
“What pig?” asked Sam.
“The pig in the party hat,” said Cara, “I’m sorry, but I don’t see the turkey.”
Sam frowned. “ I don’t see a pig in a party hat. “
Glenn leaned back and then angled his head to the right and then to the left, while studying the boy’s art. He cleared his throat. “As you know Sam, another important thing to remember when trying to understand abstract art is that one is always in dialogue with the piece by virtue of being its viewer. You as the artist may have carefully considered our role as the viewer of the painting and you want it to speak to us on some level. Artists are often delighted to hear what different viewers uncover in dialogue with their artwork, even if it’s nowhere near the artist’s intent. Also we do live in a democracy where majority rules, so Pig in the Party Hat wins.”
“No,” said Sam, laughing, “ the turkey wins.”