Characteristic of ‘No Es Lo Que Has Pensado’

No Es Lo Que Has Pensado (It is Not What You Think) (Wong, 1984) is a story about two individuals attached to each other. They are African-Americans that enjoy staying alone on a muddy street in one of the suburbs of New York. The big city has a red sunset that predicts hard times for the bloody-red and dirty suburbs. However, until the protagonists of the story are together, nothing can harm them, and they can withstand any difficulties in their lives. The man and the woman are at that stage of a relationship that does not need visual contact. That is why they close their eyes trying to feel each other with a touch. Such contact brings smiles to their faces as they know that though the streets are cold and uncomfortable, they have a small warm place in the heart of each other. This place can give much more than the cold closed doors of the streets and the grim bricks of the houses nearby. The night approaches fast, but their feeling is so bright that it irradiates sparkling beams at the nearby reality. Thus, though they are much smaller than the houses of their block, the place within their souls is much bigger, brighter, and cozier than one can imagine. Sitting close to the beloved one is happiness whatever dark and negative one’s life may be. The beauty of love can decorate even the ugliest abandoned suburbs if this feeling is natural and mutual. Therefore, the big, serious, and deceptive world has something to learn from a couple sitting at the corner of the street and having a happy life that consists of tiny but natural things.

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Telling a story is an attempt of understanding the idea that the author tried to render using particular shapes, colors, and themes. Any picture has a plot, which can be either implicit as in the cases of pictures of landscapes, or explicit, which is about No Es Lo Que Has Pansado. The plot is bound to a historical context, which is a challenging period of life for New York City because of drastic urban changes caused by multi-ethnic community displacement during the 1980s and 1990s (“Loisaida 1981 – 94”, n. d.). As a result, the presented story about the couple in love is an attempt of actualizing a historical context in a setting depicted by the author. Such actualization enhances the understanding of concepts presented by the author, his concerns, and his feelings.
It seems that each person can render the characterized artwork in one’s own way, which does not mean that there would be no similarities in different interpretations. The reason for this is that this picture does not represent abstract art, but gives concrete shapes and colors that make the depicted situation more vivid. For example, the pleased look of the man and the woman is difficult to interpret in another way than love or affection. At the same time, the setting of the story given by the artist is clearly suburbs because of the bloody-red and muddy brick wall that lacks any characteristics of architecture. Consequently, though the details of interpretations by other people may be different, the core idea of the picture would remain similar.

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The title of the story is “A Touch of Happiness.”

No Es Lo Que Has Pensado (It is Not What You Think) is a piece of art that is exhibited at Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus, Ohio. It was created by Martin Wong, an artist of Chinese-American origin in 1984. The actual size of the picture is 60 x 48, and it is done in acrylic paint on canvas. The characterized work hangs on the white wall thus having a bright context. To my mind, the work is grim though it does not lack optimism. The reason for the first statement is the predominance of dark and red colors that look either aggressive or too serious. The author depicted a three-storey building that lacks any concrete shape as a product of architecture but looks more as a huge brick of bloody-red material. Though there is a division between the stores, the whole building lacks windows, and has only two doors at higher stores, which are enclosed by brick plates. Therefore, this element of urban architecture is a monolithic unpleasant structure located in the suburbs of some city that is present in the background.
Furthermore, the brick-built monolithic structure is a background for an African-American couple that sits on the ground nearby. The man and the woman, the only representatives of muddy-yellowish color at the picture, seem to enjoy the company of each other despite unpleasing slums lying nearby. Moreover, a man has an element that resembles a nimbus around his head, which gives him a role of the savior of a subculture of slums and suburbs. It seems that the life at the background stood still watching the couple that is disconnected from the world and finds the world in the presence of each other. Their eyes are closed, but their smiles are caused by the connection of their hands. The couple sits at the left side of the picture and represents a small portion of it. However, it serves as the epicenter that explodes with feelings and spreads them around merciless pale and dark-red suburban realities.
Therefore, living in drastic conditions cannot stop natural feelings and relationship that radiate from the couple giving a positive tone to the unpleasant surroundings.

  • Bloody-red is a predominant color of the picture. A bloody-red colored brick is a component that is represented in the predominant quantity at the picture.
  • Muddy-yellow is the least represented color, but it focuses the viewer’s attention. The picture is considerably big and has a size of a modern TFT or plasma television set.
  • The geometric forms presented in the picture are mostly squares and rectangles, but their lines are mostly asymmetric. Ethnic minorities are the focus of author’s attention. They face terrible suburban surrounding. The eyes of the viewer focus on the big building at first, but afterward they move to the left corner where the couple sits.
  • The background of the picture represents a dark city and a bloody-red sky. The author contrasts the beauty of feelings with the grim dark and bloody-red suburban reality.
  • The sitting couple is depicted in detail. The man has a moustache and an earring whereas the woman wears a blouse and has an earring as well. The picture is a unique object in the gallery because it contrasts with its spacey all-white environment.
  • There is movement in the background of the picture because bloody-red colors fading to black indicate that the sun goes down and the night approaches.
  • A big brick-built building that represents the most part of picture is completely static representing a harsh and grim reality intensified by the bloody-red sunset.
  • The eye of the viewers has a dynamics of starting to look at the whole picture and shifting to its left corner in order to focus on a couple that has a little indicator of movement.
  • A particular feature of the picture is that the movement of the couple if rendered through emotions indicating that there is a hurricane of feelings inside the man and the woman represented by warm smiles and hugs.
  • A static building serves as a borderline between the two worlds, which are a troublesome ending of the day fading to black in the background and a calm sitting couple sparkling with inner explosions of emotions.

To begin with, it is worth noting that visual art is a special form of art that appeals to emotions with the help of a visual component. In this sense, Martin Wong, the creator of No Es Lo Que Has Pensado (It is Not What You Think) used his skills in order to tell a story of the two representatives of ethnic minorities. One can definitely state that this painting is capable of bringing of a wide palette of emotions ranging from neglect and disgust to sympathy and admiration. The reason for this is the choice of colors and depicted objects. For instance, predominantly bloody-red tones presented on a canvas that has a size of a big projector screen are capable of making a person sick. They represent ugliness of muddy and dirty suburbs built mostly of red bricks and pieces of concrete. By this means, the author creates pressure on the viewer as if stating that all the trash of a big city is a burden of civilization that tortures ethnic minorities.
However, to a great surprise, minorities have the courage to withstand that pressure. Moreover, the author discovers their secret representing the relationship of an African-American couple that enjoys a company of one another, and therefore, creates a small world of beauty. This feeling of beauty is presented in tiny details such as closed eyes, smiles, and holding hands, but it bears tremendous inner power. Consequently, I suggest that this painting is a piece of art because it allowed me exploring a wide palette of emotions that are initially covered by its context.
This picture means to me that one can find happiness inside oneself or one’s partner exploring the inner worlds. Thus, the inner state of a person is often much more important and valuable than the surrounding. For instance, the modern world is known for many luxurious things that allow people concealing their true emotions. But his picture presents all important emotions completely naked and free of a wide range of items that allow people hiding their true selves. A modern person can be completely suppressed though having a luxurious life, but the depicted individuals are pleased with what they have and enjoy it. I consider that the author sent an important message about the secret attitude to the environment that allows people being happy. It turns out that a couple located in suburbs and probably having problems in life is happier than the majority of their counterparts having a proper place to live in. In this sense, the selected location serves as an intensifier of the author’s message because depicting a happy couple sitting on a lovely bank of the river is a purely romantic message without any social context.
Furthermore, the style of the work is closer to realism because Wong did not try hiding the message behind abstract lines and vague forms and colors. Instead, the setting is portrayed clear and comprehendible for any viewer. This aspect is also important in visual arts because too sophisticated presentation of a message may result in observers’ misunderstanding. Instead, the author selected a style that appeals to the public more even with this pessimistic choice of palette of dominating colors.
Presenting my individual opinion and judgment of the criticized artwork, I have to say that I have sympathy for it though the feelings are controversial. Initially, I did not like the picture because of its psychic pressure created by dark and bloody colors that spoiled my mood. I considered this picture too grim and the one that creates an exaggerated feeling of being either a refugee from a civilization or a representative of the pressured minority. It has practically no bright and optimistic colors, but the ones that are pessimistic take too much place because the canvas covers a significant part of the wall. Thus, to my mind, it evokes negative emotions at first. At the same time, it took efforts to focus on different elements of the picture, which allowed me exploring the idea hidden in the context of the painting.
Therefore, though the size of the canvas and the grim dark reddish building at the background may cause anxiety, the sitting couple is completely sober. More than that, they smile and seem to enjoy the company of one another, which makes them the brightest spot in the picture. The realization of this contrast and the fact of depicting bright feelings in less optimistic colors than other artists intensified my attention. Gradually, the understanding of the hidden beauty of feelings came to my mind and I admired the talent of the artist, who was capable of making this emotional trick. Consequently, despite my feelings are controversial and I cannot say that I enjoy the palette of the picture, its idea and message are definitely worth exploring and spreading.
Art, as I see it, is a form of activity, which appeals to emotions in people and sends different messages with the help of visual forms. According to this definition, the analyzed piece of art perfectly fits it. The reason for this statement is my individual experience of having different emotions as I was busy with the analysis of the palette, shapes, and the overall idea of the picture. Thus, I experienced neglection due to the grim palette and depicted rubbish and an ugly asymmetric brick building, curiosity about the destiny of the couple and the admiration of the power of their feelings. Moreover, I got a social and a psychological message from the picture that a person may be happy in any surrounding in the case he or she has a soulmate. My judgment was affected by the size of the picture and its elements the predominant part of which was static but beard significant inner power.
Additionally, my evaluation of the artwork was affected by the reading of information about the author and the focus of his ideas in arts. This information allowed me finding the answers to the questions that were critical to answer. For instance, I realized that the artist focuses mostly on suburbia motives and that one can often meet bricks in his paintings. As a consequence, I realized that the analyzed piece of art is not disconnected from personalities and cultural context, but has them at the core of one’s existence. In this sense, it is interesting to compare my opinion with opinions of other people about this picture, but I can only guess their opinions.
In general, I suggest that another individual may share my feelings about the picture and see the similar motives and messages. The reason for this is that the gallery has similar canvases of relating topics and descriptions of the pictures with their background. As a result, any individual increases one’s awareness with some basic things that later are interpreted individually. Consequently, I consider that anyone’s personal background is not that important unless this person is not a New Yorker that lived in suburbs in the 1980s because such individual’s experience would be intensified by nostalgia.

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