Connecting with Art

I remember sitting in on all these art history classes in high school and college and picking pieces of art apart, little by little.  Comparing, contrasting, intellectualizing, putting in historical context, etc.  I remember thinking that I could never do what these artists are doing because it all seemed so complex.  It all seemed so well thought out.  More and more, I’m realizing that although we can pick it apart all we want, it probably was not created with any of those ideas in mind.  The individuals behind the work simply created pieces that mattered to them or were some sort of a response to their life at the time (or, maybe, it was a commission, in which case perhaps it was very well planned).  It’s always entertaining to me to have someone respond most strongly to something that was completely unintended in my work.  In one of my sculpture courses, we were given two pieces of cardboard and some glue and told to make some sort of chair with it, meaning, something that you could sit on and would support your weight.  I decided to make a bike because it seemed hard and I work best when things get complicated.  Anyway, I built this bike and realized that there was no way it could support a body.  I ended up having to reinforce it in many spots, which resulted in some very sloppy looking fixes.  I ended up having to cut out circles and ovals out of the cardboard to hide all the ugly spots.  When I took it to class, those last minute spots I added turned out to be the biggest hit.  People seemed to think that out of all the details I had, the ‘mud splatter’ (their words, not mine) really brought the project together.  I laughed to myself and went along with it, not owning up to the fact that they were more of a necessity than part of any sort of intentional design.  Same could be said for Estudia Hoy, when my dog decided to add his own touches to the piece:

Estudia Hoy

Anyway, all this was sparked by this quote I found by Mark Rothko in this Brain Pickings post:

“I’m interested only in expressing basic human emotions — tragedy, ecstasy, doom, and so on — and the fact that lots of people break down and cry when confronted with my pictures shows that I communicate those basic human emotions… The people who weep before my pictures are having the same religious experience I had when I painted them. And if you, as you say, are moved only by their color relationships, then you miss the point!”

I’ve always been of the opinion that art allows us to see a reflection of ourselves in some way, shape or form,this is the basis for connecting with art.  We connect to images or objects that we can relate to.  So, on one hand, it’s kind of funny for Rothko to confine his idea of his ‘true’ audience to only those who can appreciate his pieces on some sort of deep emotional level, but on the other hand, I’ve never really been a huge fan of Rothko because he’s right, I don’t have that emotional connection with his pieces.  So in that sense, I think I am missing the point.  I do, however, love the color relationships and can appreciate his work for that simple reason, one he never intended and did not seem very happy about.

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