Don’t Explain

My daughter 1984
My daughter 1984

When an individual asks the artist to explain what their intent or meaning was when creating a particular piece it really is none of that individuals business. That would be robbing the individual of their own interpretation, which ultimately is the only one that matters.

Art should never be publicly explained. I don’t want to read about what the artist was thinking when showing their work or who influenced them. The work is what it is regardless. How would knowing change how you perceived the work? Inevitably my viewing is going to be different anyway, and different again from the person standing next to me looking at the work. What I see and how their work affects me are in the realm of my personal experience.

That is the message of ART, we view art work through our own life experiences and no two experiences are the same and so will deliver a different meaning and interpretation to each viewer.

If the artist’s intent is recognized and understood by the public exactly as the artist intended, fine. Still ultimately Art is SUBJECTIVE.


3 thoughts on “Don’t Explain

  1. Exactly! Once the work is done it is over. The work now belongs to everyone and no one. It lives on its own as the end product of experiences, contemplations, and observation. The MEANS or journey to that end is perhaps the real art work.

    And yes my feelings I conveyed in the drawing of my daughter don’t hide that I think she is perfect. 🙂

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  2. I would never ask, because when I was trained to read literature, we were still influenced by “the author is dead” era, a phrase that signified exactly what you are saying, that once a piece of art is offered for others to see, whether published or not, the piece takes on a life of its own. Thus it was irrelevant to hear or imagine what the artist might have intended, also called “the intentional fallacy.” Once the piece is finished, the author is just another reader or observer and his or her interpretation or intended purpose could be influenced by any number of things. This should be liberating to people to be able to have their own interpretations validated, but there are still many people who want to think that there is just one right way to interpret art and they don’t want to get it wrong.

    That’s my literary essay for the day. Me? I looked at it for a long time before I saw the title and had been thinking some things were too perfect—the lips, the stray hair—but now I see that there is the perspective of the subject’s mother in the picture making those choices.

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    1. Interpretations are so tricky, aren’t they? Especially when you are not only trying to get into the artist’s head, but also to see things from other critics’ points of view, never mind making your own interpretation. All I can say is that I love this picture and that it made me think of Cezanne’s drawing of his wife Hortense, which I could spend hours looking at, without thinking of anything, really.

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