To examine our reactions to art – that is what Kat wants us to explore next in our “Find Your Eye: Journey of Inspiration”. What does it mean when we have an extreme negative reaction to an art piece? Looking closely at these emotional and intellectual responses can help us better understand the rules and values that drive our own artistic endeavors.
And so, here I sit in front of my monitor, fingers splayed on the keyboard, watching that pesky blinking cursor and I am completely blocked. Yep, I can’t think of a meaningful thing to say on this subject. So, let’s explore that, shall we?
I have searched my memories of the world-class museums I have visited. The Metropolitan Museum of Art and MOMA in NYC. Chicago’s Art Institute. The American Art Museum and Portrait Gallery in our nation’s capital. Each of these buildings filled to overflowing with “Art with a capital A”. Works by Picasso, Kandinsky, Warhol, Dali, Rembrandt, Monet, Duchamp, Mondrian, Van Gogh – I have seen them all.
I can easily recall pieces that moved or amazed me. Pieces that inspired. The first time I saw a Louise Nevelson sculpture. Discovering the photography of Berenice Abbott. The architectural magnificance of the Chrysler Building. The stained glass of Frank Lloyd Wright. The delicate balance of a Calder mobile.
And then, there is the art that surrounds me, here at home; the pieces we have purchased at local art shows and during our travels. Things with memories and personal history. That fill me with gratitude and happiness each time I see them.
But I have been unable to think of a specific art piece which generated a strong negative response. How can that be?
It appears I am filled with ambivalence about “fine art”, about famous works that have received that label. For me, these pieces seem to require an understanding of historical forces and art movements that I do not possess. They seem to require a scholarly approach to recognize their importance, their meaning. And lacking that, I am unmoved; I can’t connect.
Frankly, I feel stupid and unsophisticated because, much of the time, I simply don’t get it. I do not want to engage art on an intellectual basis alone.
I suppose I view art with a collector’s mind-set. Would I want this in my home? Does this piece make me happy? And if my gut, my heart, says “no”, then I move on.
But in thinking about this further, I wonder if am being fair. Even if art shocks or repels me, shouldn’t I take the time to closely examine why? After all, my emotions have been engaged – negative ones, yes, but the artist has communicated something to me. To simply say “I don’t like it” – isn’t that perhaps the easy way out?
Doesn’t each piece of art have something to teach me? Don’t I owe the artist more than my immediate and visceral reaction?
I don’t know. The heart loves what the heart loves. And isn’t that connection, heart to heart, what art is?
I took the photo above because of the wondrous rippling interplay of light and shade. I wonder what Giacometti’s “Walking Man” thinks of the light show.