The Art of Imagination

I’m loving Frank Ocean’s Channel Orange album. He left a few mouths agape when he revealed (with less ta-da than Anderson Cooper) that his first love was a man. I’ve had conversations with other Negro girls before who wonder if they would really be able to listen to a male musician singing a song about another guy. They would only be able to picture two men together, they say, making the song distinctly less sexy, less appealing, less escapist for them.

This brings up two ideas for me: one, hetero-normative thinking. Who ever said most men had ever been singing about them to begin with? Hello, Luther Vandross! But, at larger issue to me is one about art and the suspension of disbelief. Writers are often pressured at reading question and answer sessions to reveal the bibliographic parts of their fiction. “Is this about you?” the grumpy guy in khakis might wonder, stabbing the cover of the offending book. When we should suspend disbelief, we can’t. When we should, maybe so that we come to art without prejudiced ewws on our lips, we can’t.

But, art is made for our imaginations. It’s why you can look at an Ellsworth Kelly painting and see not just a triangle of blue, but a spot on the French Riviera. Frank Ocean is using the reality of his romance to make each of us imagine love in the world, love that we may believe is beyond us and outside of us, but love nonetheless. But both love and art make us feel and you can’t tell me when you hear Frank Ocean sing: “And though you were my first time/A new feel/It won’t ever get old, not in my soul/Not in my spirit, keep it alive/We’ll go down this road/’Til it turns from color to black and white.”

Hear it for yourself:


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