Picasso probably had this problem.
People just didn't get it. It was complicated and uncomfortable.
Nowadays, the experience of art has not changed much. You may pass by a piece in a gallery window and immediately recoil — "what is that?" — without knowing anything about its history or story.
Maybe that's asking too much. Maybe art should stand easily on its own.
But if you can have the opportunity to get beyond drive-by art, you might experience something much more powerful.
Consider Jason Pearson. His distinctive work has been in the windows of the ArtCube Gallery in Laguna Beach for the past month, but it was his show-ending live performance Friday night that made his art come alive in a profound way.
Projecting images and dry wit, the self-effacing Pearson told compelling backstories that will be hard to forget.
"The problem with the world is me," he started, working off cue cards in front of a small crowd. "I confess that I employ 12 slaves."
Pearson admitted to six "confessions" about how world issues affect him.
"A couple years ago I would have told you that slavery was something that was abolished back in the Abraham Lincoln era," he said. "But there are more slaves today than at any time in history. There's about 27 million worldwide."
He cited examples of forced slavery, sex slavery, domestic servitude and child soldiers.
"When you look at these paintings, you realize in each one of them there's something wrong. In many of them that thing is slavery," he said. "But my confession to you is that although I understand slavery, I realize I'm still part of the problem.
"You see, I buy clothes that are still made by children forced to work in sweatshops. I own a computer with minerals mined by slaves in the Congo. And I even eat tomatoes picked by migrant slave workers right here in the United States. And I want to confess that I prefer to look away."
Pearson's confessions were not told with the off-putting tone of political indignation — just a deep sense of personal accountability and purpose. He did not expect the audience to sign a petition or donate in a can.
Only listen and consider.
He admitted that he is one of the top 3% richest people in the world — but only because he makes more than $38,000 a year. He suggested that people go to globalrichlist.com and see where they fall.
"I have the luxury of driving a car with heated seats and surround sound, yet I want the newer model," he said. "I have the luxury of taking my five kids to the happiest place on earth for the day, where it's easy to ignore the two-thirds of the world's population who don't earn that in about two years."
As a teenager, Pearson was robbed "with a gun against my head" by two other teens.
"I think about how my life would be different today if I was carrying a gun for protection," he said. "Either I would probably be dead or those two boys or all of us might be dead for the one dollar that I was carrying in my pocket that night."
Pearson always made connections back to his paintings, showing how they impacted the art in a cathartic way.