I once heard an art critic tell a bunch of art students, “Some mornings I want tomato juice and some mornings I want orange juice. If you give me orange juice on a morning when I want tomato juice I won’t like it. It doesn’t matter if it’s the best orange juice in the world. I still won’t like it.” He then went on to say that some of their works he was going to look at were going to be orange juice and that they should keep in mind that today was a tomato juice day.
My first thought was, “What an asshole.” But then I thought a little more about it and realized he was admitting that his judgment was fallible. He also admitted that his opinions were not objective and were sometimes shaped by factors that had nothing to do with what he was looking at.
I still think, what an asshole, but that’s tempered a little bit by understanding the deeper implications of what he said.
Years later I got asked to write art criticism for a little magazine—so little it folded after its second issue, but that’s another story. At the Sarratt Art Gallery there was an exhibit of paintings by Margo Kren. It was her “Snook’s Jazz” series, named after her husband and inspired by her visits to New Orleans. And that was about all I got from the exhibition catalogue. I missed the opening so I never got to talk to her.
At first I felt like I was being given tomato juice and let me say right now that I don’t like tomato juice. There is no morning, afternoon, or evening when I want tomato juice. And I started writing a review that was pretty critical, but since I was working on it during lunch breaks I only had a short time to look at the paintings and write so I kept going back. And a funny thing happened. I started looking more closely at the paintings and found depth and detail I’d missed earlier. The online versions don’t really capture the paintings, how large they are, or an interesting recurring motif: thick blobs of paint like candy dots.
The more I looked at her work the more I liked it and I ended up writing a really positive review of the paintings.
It’s an experience I’ve kept in mind ever since because it reminds me that my first impression may not be the right one. If I give something another look I just might develop a taste for it.
My first impressions are very often wrong because deep down I’m very judgmental, and every kind of juice tastes wrong. It’s a good thing I know this about myself.
That is an excellent thing to know about yourself but it can also be worrying. If my first impression is to like something I wonder if I’m wrong. And there have been times when I’ve gone back and looked at something I liked and said, “What was I thinking? This is terrible!”
We used to laugh at my dad growing up because if my mom said we were having meatloaf for dinner, and then we instead had steak, he was upset. He always said the same thing, “I had my tastebuds all set for meatloaf”.
But now as an adult I get it. When I look at something for the first time I try to not have my tastebuds pre-set. Nice post!
The funniest part of that is that I would think steak would be a special treat, or at least much better than meatloaf, but I know what it’s like to have your tastebuds pre-set for something. Even if you get something just as good instead there’s still that sense of missing something.
But, yeah, it is a good idea to keep your tastebuds open.
Does this mean you’re going to try tomato juice?
I like mine with three ounces of vodka, a squeeze of lemon two, squeezes of lime and hold the tomato juice
I’ve tried tomato juice but this means I’m going to keep going back and trying it. In the future though I’m sticking to your recipe.
I’m a bit behind on my blog reading this week! Anyway, great post–I’ve definitely experienced this and it’s good to keep our ‘fallible judgement’ in mind. For the past few years my husband has tried to convince me to watch Game of Thrones. I wasn’t interested. Dragons? Castles? It was all tomato juice. But then he blackmailed me into watching an episode and even though I hated to admit it, I LOVED THE SHOW. The first ten minutes or so didn’t agree with my palate, but then (as you said) I started to notice more and more things to draw me in. We limit ourselves so much when we gravitate towards specific tastes! Thanks for the reminder that we’re all art critics to some extent, and be aware of our preset ‘tastes.’ Also, who drinks tomato juice willingly? That shit’s nasty.
I’ll take this as another reminder that I should start reading the Game of Thrones book that my neighbor gave me. Or watching the show. It’s not that I ever thought of it as tomato juice. To me it’s more of a multi-course meal and I want to be able to give it my full attention before I start digging in.
“a multi-course meal” is exactly how I feel about Game of Thrones too!! I cannot see myself sitting through it… Like Sarah I found the first 10 minutes to be a total “what the hell am I watching?” and unlike her I turned it off! She keeps talking about it and she’s not the only one saying it’s THAT good… maybe I take a sip again at the “orange juice” because I will ALWAYS take tomato juice over OJ hahahhahaa
Thank you for making me laugh so much. And sometimes all it takes is just a sip to know you don’t like something. As for me I still haven’t even taken a sip of Game of Thrones so I’m reserving judgment.
glad I could be of service 😉
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My first impression of your posts is always positive, Chris. Then, when I re-read them, I find depth and detail I missed earlier. I only drink tomato juice on plane rides, so I had a lot of tomato juice last week, but that’s another story.
It means so much to me that you re-read my posts and find things you missed. I hope I can always give you the juice you’re in the mood for.
I think ‘Orange is the New Black’ is my tomato juice. I think I should probably try it. I normally shy away from things that everyone raves about because I am a very ornery and sometimes stubbornly ignorant person, but in many cases I do eventually come round. I’ve come round for Harry Potter, surfing, crossfit, Game of Thrones, Terry Pratchett, skinny jeans, blogging, Instagram and more bands than I can remember, among other things.
(But I will never come round for Twilight and 50 Shades of Grey. That tomato juice stinks even from over here.)
Sometimes being ornery is a good thing. There are only so many hours in the day and, well, having enjoyed ‘Orange Is The New Black’ myself I can tell you once you start watching it’s very tempting to just sit and keep watching it. But it’s also good to keep an open mind and be willing to try new things.