In Praise of Brian Wilson

Long ago, I heard an interview with Brian Wilson, leader of the famed Beach Boys. As I recall, the interviewer asked Brian what he was trying to accomplish in his songs.

For some reason, Brian’s answer has stayed with me over the years. He said that he was trying to take the listener out of his everyday experience for just a few moments. In effect, he was in the business of selling mental vacations, each of which lasted for only 3 minutes.

Consider, for example, the famous Beach Boy song “Sloop John B”. Listen  to it, and for those 3-plus minutes, you’re not worried about your boss, or your bills, or the health of an ailing relative. Instead, you’re wrapped up in a wonderful tune and lyrics. Just 3 minutes later, you’re back in the everyday world… as the Sloop John B sails off into the distance.

Well, that’s the aspiration that I have for my art. On any given viewing occasion, the “vacation effect” probably won’t last for even a single minute, but the picture will be there for you, ready to refresh your mind the next time you cast your gaze in its direction.

I’ll wrap up this blog post with the following quote by Henri Matisse. As a young man, I detested this sentiment. Now, I wholeheartedly endorse it:

“What I dream of is an art of balance, of purity and serenity devoid of troubling or depressing subject matter – a soothing, calming influence on the mind, rather like a good armchair which provides relaxation from physical fatigue.”

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