Art criticism, I think, came out of a feeling that works of art need to be explained. But in the back of my mind there’s always a competing feeling that if a work of art needs to be explained it—or rather the artist—has failed. If a work of art doesn’t speak for itself, well, what is it doing? And yet there are also a lot of ways to pick apart this notion. Art appreciation can help you spot things you might miss. It can help give you some idea of how much work really went into a work of art. With types of art that seem baffling—conceptual art, even abstract art—it can give you insights into maybe what the artist is trying to convey. It’s like it’s a language we have to learn and it can be fun to speak that language.
And I can pick apart that notion too. A guy once told me he studied film in college and it ruined every movie he watched, even the movies he loved that were the whole reason he wanted to study film in the first place. After academically dissecting movies he couldn’t watch anything without seeing how the angles and edits were being used, how every shot must have been set up, even choices the actors made when it came to line delivery.
Still I feel like there are some things that just speak for themselves, that don’t have to be analyzed, and yet they still have depths, they still say more than just what they say.
I used to love in-depth literary analysis–made me feel like a detective trying to solve the mystery of what a writer was saying. But that’s just me–I know for some people “a pipe is just a pipe”!
It really can be fun interpreting things. I sometimes wonder if my experience with literary analysis and art history and criticism causes me to over-interpret, or misinterpret, things, but I don’t think that’s a problem. A lot of artists don’t have a specific idea for what their work should mean or how it should be interpreted, and, anyway, part of the beauty of art is that there’s not a single way to interpret anything.
I always believe a better world is possible when I visit here, my friend.
Your positivity always makes me think a better world is possible too, Ann. As long as there’s hope there’s always a chance.