The Laws of Nature

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Why Do We Look At Art?

Chuck Close

Art Without Compromise by Wendy Richmond
Chapter 8: "Your Excitement Meter"
Section 4: "Why do we look at art?"

I like this question because I can't remember a time when I wasn't fascinated when looking at art, and I've never taken the time to think about why. In this section of her book, Richmond questions herself and others in an effort to discover why we look at art. Here are some of the reasons that she found:
  • art provides a structure for contemplation
  • contemporary art puts us in touch with what's going on; it reflects the time we live in
  • looking at art satisfies our aesthetic side, just like music
  • art informs and inspires creativity
  • some people view art for the challenge, to seek what they don't know
  • viewing art is uplifting and promotes creativity
  • many of us learned to view and appreciate art at an early age from our parents and teachers, so it's now a part of our lives
and so on... I think that the combination of all of these reasons would apply to me.

Her quest to find answers to why we look at art led Richmond to another discovery: The art we see has been selected. What are we NOT seeing? Art, like history is edited , and we are getting a "curated" view of the past. It seems to me that, these days, the world wide web provides a global venue for displaying works of art that wouldn't normally be selected for public exhibition. I wonder how that will change the way we view art?

And now, your thoughts ??


Anonymous said...
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Casey Klahn said...

We look at art as an outlet (inlet?) for emotion. My basic def. of art is that it is evocative.

Casey Klahn said...

Fascinating - the democratizing of art viewing.

Gary Keimig said...

I, like you can not remember a time that I was not fascinated with art. My question might be Why isn't everyone? I have a fascination with the outdoors and need to know everything about what I am seeing.[Ecology and natural history]Again, Why not everyone. What makes me the way I am and others the way they are. I know that is what makes the world go round. But....

Kathy said...

Hi Pam - I hope your plumbing problem is fixed! It's neat to learn how you were first exposed to art and also what you've done with it since. Keep looking :-)

Hi Casey - two interesting comments. I agree that because good art must be evocative that one primary reason for looking at it is emotional. Maybe its the same reason why some of us like watching movies as well.

Hi Gary - good question! I haven't thought about why everyone doesn't have the desire to view art. Perhaps everyone does, but not necessarily the art that hangs in museums. I'll have to ponder that one some more. Thanks!

hwfarber said...

Good question--I don't really know why I look at art. I subscribe to Art in America and Art News. At times, I'm not sure I'm looking at art but the reviews and articles make me think. At other times, I'm upset by seeing work that looks similar to mine. (Makes me wonder if there's some cosmic place of ideas.)

My first look at art (other than reproductions in the Bible) was when I was around 12--Picasso and Dali paintings in either Fortune or Life magazine. Dali's trees looked like upside-down male torsos. I could not believe it! (Obviously, I got to the magazine before my father censored it.) I'm still looking--not to be shocked--but because one never knows what might be on the next page, or at the museum, or at a gallery.

Margaret Ryall said...

I had an early life bereft of fine art viewing but I was immersed in craft. From the time I was 19 until this very minute art viewing fills many aspects of my life. Much of my art viewing online is to determine where my work fits in the broader scheme of things. My own art collection adds brightness and happiness to my days. Often art calms me while other times it stirs my creative juices. It keeps me in touch with the world I live in, it causes me to question and to hypothesize. It give me a good cognitive and emotional workout. What else fits that bill?

Dan Kent said...

First of all, to be conversational for a minute - I am so inspired by PAMO's metamorphosis, what can I say? She is living your Jasper John's quote in your comment on the last post that I am cutting out and hanging up. (I've yet to call myself an artist, but I feel it coming.) And I am excited for Don's activity. All of you are so interesting and inspiring.

Anyway, I have a lot of favorites marked for art on the web. Galleries often post art by the artists they are displaying. I get to see art in England for example, lots of good art there. So even if the art is being shown, lots of time it isn't being shown here - where I am. But I can see it - what is being done by artists all over the world, now in this era. Anytime I want. And this, of course, is wonderful.

Art does everything for me, what can I say? All of the above, like you said. But as for what we are not seeing: I think there is a tendency nowadays towards nonrepresentational art. Art portraying people, like the art of Lucian Freud or Andrew Wyeth is underrepresented in galleries, and has been underrepresented in my opinion at the international showcase of galleries that comes to Miami every year, Art Basel. But Basel is still wonderful. And there is some showing of this art there as well. So there are trends in the art world that may favor some types of art over others.

But I don't mind curated art in another sense, because there is indeed, as we discussed previously, a common culture, that helps us relate to what we see. And there is nothing wrong with that. Perhaps quality control as well to keep displayed art at a high standard (though I have my doubts that this is always done. Often today, it seems shock value is at a premium or gallery owners seek something unique in the hope that it will be trendsetting perhaps, and it borders on ridiculous instead).

Stan Kurth said...

I'm an art junkie! It's hard to say why I look at art, but I do know that the way I look and see is constantly evolving. If one is human and one can see, then one sees art in its many forms. Is that art enough to keep you looking, searching for that visual stimulation that does indeed communicate with our inner most being? For me it is.

-Don said...

I really don't know how to respond to this question except to say I HAVE to look at art... I just have to. ...probably for all the reasons you and Wendy listed, as well as for all the reasons listed in the wonderful comments. This has been a GREAT read with wonderful insights, but I'm no closer to a definitive answer...

I'm thankful for all the books, magazines, homes, galleries and museums I've seen art in. Now I'm especially thankful for the internet. I get to see what I may not have ever seen otherwise.

Wendy's point about art, like history, being edited is SPOT ON. It drives me crazy when I'm told what I should be viewing as art. Let me look at it all and I'll decide... Thank God for that global venue you mention...


Kathy said...

Hi Hallie- I wonder if your early exposure to Dali and Picasso influenced your approach to art? I suppose that's a rhetorical question, but leads me to think about the first art I remember seeing and how that might have influenced me now. My exposure early on was to Cezanne and Rembrandt.

Hi Margaret - that pretty much covers it for me, too! Thanks.

Hi Dan - you ARE an artist!! Apply the label. I know what you mean about shock value. I've been pondering that a lot over the past several decades. For instance, the public was shocked when John Singer Sargent exhibited "Madam X" originally with one strap of her gown fallen down off her shoulder. So, he repainted the strap. Folks were also shocked by how blue her skin appeared. The impact of the painting ruined the life of his subject, who went into hiding for the rest of her life. That was 1884! It's funny how things remain the same. Thanks!

Hi Stan - I'm an "art junkie" too for the reasons you mention. And I agree that the way I look at art changes with time. I've been studying some paintings since I was a teenager and they have changed for me over time, now that I'm only 29 ;-)

Hi Don - I agree. If the internet didn't exist my knowledge of art would be woefully lacking! Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Dan- it's time for you to call yourself an artist. Sketch it, scream it, whisper it, laugh it, be it. It's time!