If I’m being honest, I’m more of a distant art admirer than an art enthusiast. But for some reason, whenever I hear about a new gallery I go running for the chance to see if somehow my eclectic spirit has suddenly emerged. So, when I heard about the Willie Cole: On Site exhibit opening in the David C. Driskell Center, I once again decided I would give in to my inner hipster wannabe and check it out.

The first installment of the exhibit I noticed was actually outside. A teepee-like contraption made of pieces of chicken wire sat to the right of the Cole Building with a plaque calling it “The Driskell Wishing Wall.”

Assorted colored slips of paper lined a table inside the building, just inside the door to the exhibit. Next to it sat a bin with a few recycled water bottles inside. Stacks of papers explained that people are encouraged to write a wish, stick it in a bottle and place it in a hole in the wishing wall.

It was supposed to be a metaphor for life. Water is something we need to live, as are hopes and dreams, the paper said. But I couldn’t help feeling like that, and thus the whole idea of the exhibit, was a reach.

A sign on one of the exhibit walls explained that Willie Cole created his art out of wood, recycled water bottles and shoes. The bottles and shoes were to represent things  people get rid of but leave their DNA within.

With this idea in mind, I scoured the exhibit looking for meaning behind everything. Suddenly, the sculpture of shoes that resembled the shape of a couch was something more than just a place to sit. The couch is a meeting place for people. Each person who sits leaves a piece of themselves behind, even if it’s just a strand of hair or a fingerprint.

And the rectangles of mashed up water bottles showed how all people are related. Though our families are different, many parts of our DNA connect us.

Only then did I realize I’ll never know what the artist really meant. The ideas of Willie Cole are trapped inside his mind and I will never get to see them. I felt like maybe this all meant nothing.

Maybe that’s what people like about art: they can interpret it however they want. They can find their own definition of beauty within it. I, however, just cannot think that way. Because what if they’re wrong?

I can appreciate art, but I just can’t guess at what it all means. I’d much rather see a pretty painting of a nature scene than a mix of colors and shapes with an abstract title and no full explanation.

I admire the craft of piecing together objects and creating interesting shapes with them because I know I could never do that so artfully. It’s just hard to fathom how so many people can understand the ideas or meanings behind such far-fetched pieces. For me, they often straddle the line between deeply thought provoking and downright cheesy.

If nothing else, art galleries are at least peaceful. The Willie Cole exhibit made me want to quietly meditate underneath the chandelier of recycled water bottles all day.

The Driskell Center is open Monday-Friday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m, and until 6 p.m. on Wednesdays. The exhibit will stay open through Nov. 18.

Featured Photo Credit: Featured photo courtesy of Greg Staley and The Driskell Center.

Taylor Roar is a freshman journalism major and can be reached at troar@terpmail.umd.edu.

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