((Essay from, "The Art of Everyday Joe: A Collector's Journal."))

It's not the end of the world.  Art CAN be understood, but some pieces just take more time than others.  Here are some things to remember if your art viewing experience raises more questions than answers...

1. BE GLAD: Anything that challenges you is worth the challenge.  It's your chance to grow.  Go for it!  Make confusion your friend.

2. RELAX:  No one is going to leap out of a corner and quiz you on that Joan Mitchell painting that you're trying to figure out.  Relax!  Uptightness is the enemy of an open mind.

3. LEAVE:  That's right.  If you don't understand the art that you're seeing, go see something else with the intention of returning to take another stab at that challenging masterpiece.  Cleansing your mental slate and returning later can give you a fresh view.

4. CHANGE POSITIONS:  Whenever I want to really get a grip on art, I view it from several feet back, up close, flush left or right.  Change angles and see something different that may make sense.  One of my favorite paintings is Alex Katz’s “Upside Down Ada.”  Check it out.

5. ASK SOMEBODY:  I can't stress this enough.  If someone who looks like an art museum or gallery staffer walks by while you're in your art fog, ask them about it!  Ask a docent.  Ask one of the museum guards!  They know a lot more about art than you realize.  Ask a complete stranger who may be seeing the piece at the same time that you are.  Art is about dialogue, not monologues. Another viewpoint is the friend of an open mind.

6. TAKE AN ARTIST WITH YOU:  In "Art In King Size Beds: A Collector's Journal," I wrote about my experience during a visit at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art with artist Scott Andrew Spencer.  It was quite different and more illuminating than had I gone alone.  Artists can explain things that aren’t apparent to even the most experienced art professional.

7. LOOK IT UP:  I know.  No one has time to look up anything anymore, but simple internet search engines like Google and Yahoo are fantastic places to look up art.  You won't be sorry.

8. REMEMBER YOURSELF:  That's right.  You're trying to grow your own unique relationship with art as a potential collector.  Make your own personal connection FIRST and then seek out more information about the piece and the artist.

Again, art isn't and shouldn't always be about "Pleasantville."  It shouldn't always soothe and coddle us.  It SHOULD stir and challenge us.  If you didn't scratch your head at least once during an art museum visit, either the art wasn't doing its job or you didn’t have your eyes open.  I would guess the latter.  If you still don't get it, just remember that you're not dumb.  Like emerging art ... you're a work in progress.


If You Like It You Get It