Art I Don’t “Get”…and Why It Doesn’t Matter if I “Get” It

June 9th, 2012 by , in Saturday with the Spark
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I consider myself a fairly decent “traditional” art absorber. I listen to classical music on occasion, have watched my fair share of Shakespeare plays, Broadway musicals, and staged dance productions, and have visited art galleries galore over the course of my school career. And I’ve even participated in the creation and performance of art, from drama and dance to music and visual arts. I like to think I know how to take in and appreciate art, speaking in the broadest sense.

And then, I come across spectacles like these:


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…Um…yeah. These, plus those weird twisted metal sculptures that always seem to be outside big institutional buildings or performing arts centers? I just don’t know what to make of them.

An Attempt at Reasoning Out This Art

I can see why the beer belly art is funny (first pic); I live in the South U.S. and have seen a few live beer bellies that look remarkably like that (sadly enough). And I guess I can see why somebody wanted to make a car out of glass (second pic)–just ’cause they could, I suppose. The random metal animal in the middle of a field (fourth pic) is kinda weird, but I guess it’s “natural” in subject matter, so it works being stuck out in the middle of nature. And the yellow circle kinda reminds me of my Play-Doh days, modeling the clay around the base of the container…

But the question keeps rising in my mind: “WHY?” Why bother doing something like this? Is there some kind of esoteric philosophy embedded in this that I’m not getting? Is this art going to expand my mind like a ’60s-era drug if I just stare at it long enough?

What is Art without Meaning? Quite a Lot, Actually

I keep looking for meaning in the art I take in, because that’s the kind of art I like. Absurd-ism annoys me; my real life is absurd enough. And doing things “just ’cause” feels too random and meaningless. I like to take in examples of artistic expression that MEAN something to me, that change the way I think about something or show me a completely different mode of living. Just a personal preference, I suppose…

…and yet, as crazy/meaningless as I find these examples of art, there’s likely somebody who gets a lot of meaning out of them and enjoys them. The thing about art is that everyone views it differently–the yellow circle art, for instance, could be representational of anything or nothing, just something to make you think a minute.

Art is weird like that; show a random picture of anything to a crowd, and there will be people in the crowd who try to pull out meaning (like me), people who like the colors, people who hate the subject matter, and on and on. Different interpretations will be piled on, and any or none may be “correct” from the artist’s viewpoint, but they’re still all valid thoughts.

So, whether I enjoy and/or understand the meaning of such artwork is almost beside the point of art itself. The point is, somebody made it because they liked it and wanted to do it, and somebody else thought well enough of it to showcase it. Each piece of artwork, then, whether it’s traditionally “understandable” or not, is an example of someone’s personal expression, someone’s mark on the world. It might look like a big ball of excrement to me, but to someone else, perhaps, it’s life-changing. Art’s meaning is, then, all in how one approaches it.

Summary: What Do You Think?

What do you think about art like the examples I’ve shown in this article? Do you agree that art’s meaning is created by the artist’s perspective plus the viewer’s opinion? Are there art types you don’t understand that aren’t represented? Leave a comment and share your opinion!

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