When I first saw Wil Murray’s art, I was pretty sure it was ugly.
My friend Justin Evans, the co-founder of Stresslimitdesign, had one of his pieces on his wall. I had gone over to his house, looked at the painting and thought, “I don’t think I’m smart enough for this.” Either that, or it was really ugly.
I was pretty sure it wasn’t ugly, though– both Justin and my girlfriend at the time thought it was great. It must have been me– right?
Anyway, a year later I was at a gallery in Montreal looking at his new work, and it wasn’t ugly; it was actually kind of cool.
Here’s my theory: I think you need something ugly in your life. And I don’t just mean ugly– I mean really repulsive. Something that you can’t help but be confused by, that freaks you out, or that’s just plain terrible to look at. In other words, something that challenges you.
Ugly things don’t just make you think; they also unbalance you, and connect with you emotionally over time. All of this makes you different, developing your sense of taste and what you think of as acceptable. And your being challenged is necessary to keep you growing.
Your ugly thing doesn’t need to be an object– it can also be a person. You can get someone in your life that grates on you, that makes you feel uncomfortable and challenges the things you say– someone that doesn’t believe the hype.
So here’s what I ask myself: What happened, why did I kind of like what I saw at the gallery that night? Did I change, or did the work? Probably both, right? But what happened isn’t what matters to me– only that it did happen, that I got a more nuanced understanding of the world as a result of it. I like that it happened, and I want– no, I need– more of it.
Very likely, so do you.