The Art Viewer
Let's take a minute to talk about the art viewer. Can we!?
Recently, I have heard several stories about how artists got started. Many of these stories start with my (teacher, friend, classmate, neighbor) complimented my work; so I decided to pursue art.
I don't think these artists began making art because they were flattered into it. I think they enjoyed the process and once accepted by a viewer they felt empowered, knowing that they have a new language they can communicate with.
Since art is communication then having someone to communicate with (the viewer) is essential.
When I started Dartily I did several posts with my family called Let's Read Art. We broke down the art viewing process into 3 steps:
- What do you see: describe exactly what's there...what colors, what shapes, what recognizable objects
- What do you know about those things: reflect on your existing knowledge and experiences related to the elements you found in step 1
- Why would the artist put this together. This is where you start to ask questions about the relationship between the different elements identified above and how those relationships come together to generate a new idea.
I know that all sounds stupid simple but sometimes our brains get so logic focused that even an art lover like me will race past images relying on gut reactions. I find stopping and asking myself these basic questions helps in transitioning from logical to abstract thinking.
Today, I bumped into this article about viewing art. Proclaiming it the millenial approach to viewing artwork. It includes things like walk through a museum and try to post as many pieces on instagram as possible and see art that fits your world view etc... I assume it's all just a joke but I was surprised they completely overlooked the increasingly popular way people are consuming art today...the internet. That article was written in response to this article from the Washington Post. While again overlooking viewing art in any context other than the museum/gallery setting it did attempt to provide real suggestions on how to make the most of the experience.
- take time
- seek silence
- study up
- engage memory
- accept contradiction
I was curious to see what other articles on the topic are out there and if any of them acknowledge that art is in more places than just a museum and gallery. I was very pleased to see the strategy "The Art of Seeing Art" from the Toledo Museum of Art. Off the bat, I loved that they supported the idea of visual literacy and that art is everywhere. Their strategy for viewing art is pretty consistent with my personal strategy and has the following 6 steps:
Then back to the beginning where they clarify "An object can never be interpreted the same way after it has been interpreted once."
I'd recommend checking out that page on their website for more details. It's refreshing to see a museum provide such helpful advice and without making it feel childish.