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What Does It All Mean?

Updated: Aug 14, 2019

At some point you’ve stood in front of a painting or piece of art asking yourself that very question. It’s easy to digest a landscape or portrait. It’s more about color choices or subject matter than deeper meaning. Dealing with abstract surrealism or narrative painting rich with symbolism, you might have to pause to find the right words to express exactly how you feel about what that artist conveys.

Untitled, circa 1998

by Bobby Padilla

Mixed media on wood, 12" × 18"(framed)

Artists create a visual language of their own dialect from early on. Starting out, it’s garbled and cryptic. There’s a safety in being “misunderstood” or “leaving interpretation up to the viewer”. If they get it, great, if not, you can explain it in an artist’s statement for which they may make the time to read it or not. At the risk of sounding like a curmudgeon, like most things that people in their 20’s do, that’s bullshit. Yes, symbols mean different things to different folks, but composed well in a thoughtful context, and that painting tells exactly the tale you want it to tell. Seasoned artists don’t like to have their work misunderstood and certainly not dismissed because someone didn’t get it. They’re even comfortable with disdain rather than indifference. At least there was an emotional response.


So, I present a couple paintings done from my own Bullshit Period. I’m not sure exactly, it may even be from my Post Bullshit era since I might’ve been in my early 30’s. I place them between 1996-2002. Don’t get me wrong, lots of thought and work went into these pieces, that wasn’t bullshit. But as far as greater meaning, well…

Untitled or A Strange Courtship, circa 2002

by Bobby Padilla

Mixed media on watercolor paper, 10" × 14" (framed)

There are countless criteria for judging paintings I suppose, and everyone has an opinion on what makes a successful piece. So for me, a painting should be engaging from 20 feet away and equally engaging from 6 inches away with whimsical elements of storytelling and prominent iconography. I’m still proud of these pieces.


As far as what these paintings are saying, well, I’ll leave that up to you. With open windows, hands with wings, apples, snakes and the strange courtship of a noodle-armed leopard in baseball paints dumping rain on a fish in a bottle, you’ll have plenty to decipher.

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