My first response to the All About Gourds show sounded something like this: “Really? Gourds?”
The only experience I had had with gourds was through a friend’s aunt, who likes to spray paint them white and roll them in gold glitter. I’ve also seen them piled in uselessly in the middle of dining room tables, I suppose to give the house more of a festive feel.
As I talked to the show’s participants, I found I was not alone in my skepticism in regard to the use of the gourd as a medium. Of the people I spoke to, only one was a gourd enthusiast. The rest were at a loss to explain how the event even got started, let alone how it became popular.
But in talking to juror Brian Parks, I grudgingly discovered that I agreed with the whole gourd thing, to an extent.
The best way I know how to explain it has (thankfully, for me) less to do with gourds, and more to do with pianos.
My stepfather owns a Steinway baby grand piano from 1922. It is a beautiful instrument, but I find it utterly impossible to play.
Every time I sit in front of that piano, I feel intimidated. This is not the case with my electronic excuse for a piano. I can bang on that thing all day long.
I still play the same music, with the same level of skill (or lack thereof) when I’m at the keyboard. The difference is that I’m not working with a 90-year-old instrument made of real ivory and ebony.
I think the experience I have in front of the Steinway is similar to what some visual artists go through when they look at a set of high-quality oil paints.
Even if no one’s watching, the pressure to create something “worthwhile” can be overwhelming. A lot of people are scared away from making or doing anything because of the expectations they bring to it.
I think the value of gourds is that they’re so often associated with birdhouses, or seasonal decor, rather than with fine art. This gives people the opportunity to let go of the pressures they place on themselves and actually create what could turn out to be a real work of art.
Call Laurel Black, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8641.