Art and Understanding

At the recent opening of an art exhibition titled “Body Image,” an attendee said “I have not taken enough drugs to understand this S*#!.”  I had to laugh when I heard the story about her experience.  Her first mistake was assuming that she has to understand.

Whether it is art or life, it is likely a disadvantage to assume that we have to understand.  We don’t understand the sexes or how they communicate; we don’t understand the universe; we don’t understand life; we don’t understand love; we don’t understand emotions and feelings; we don’t understand our OWN place in the universe…. so how can we ever expect to understand another’s interpretation of life through their art?

While teaching in the Czech Republic in July, I reminded the students that we create art based on the lives we’ve lived, the people we’ve encountered, and the beliefs and values that we hold; likewise, when someone views their art, that person is looking at the work based on who he or she is, i.e., life lived, people encountered, and beliefs and values held.

Art is an expression of life and all that it holds, for better or for worse.  Therefore, it can’t ever be understood by all in the same way.  So it is with life and those we encounter in it.  We’ll never fully understand, and that is okay.  I recall the closing words of the father in A River Runs Through It as he gives a sermon after his youngest son was murdered:  “You can love completely without complete understanding.”   …for art, for life, for living, for those we encounter in our lives.

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