“Mirror, mirror on the wall ...”
When looking at art, have you ever stopped or looked hard enough to realize that maybe you're staring into a mirror?
I cannot tell you how many times I've visited art galleries in which I hear people make all sorts of snarky comments. Of course, the more daring the art, the snarkier the comments. This always surprises me because you'd think that people who take the time to look at daring art are probably more open minded.
Well, that's not always the case.
You know, I don't think I've ever seen art that offends me. I mean, stay tuned, I suppose that could happen one day, but I don't think so. That's because I “get it.” I understand that whatever an artist believes they “can get away with,” as Andy Warhol once said, is truly a creative expression, whether I “like it” or not.
Of course, I see plenty of things that I either “like” or “don't like,” but I don't get hung up on them or offended by them because I've realized a simple truth …
You are what you see. Here's what I mean ...
There have been times when I've looked at art and I've cracked up laughing. Usually, after this happens, I look around and notice that I'm the only one who had this reaction. I might also see something that really moves me and I don't notice others feeling the same way that I do.
Art is a mirror. You look at it and you see yourself. If you love it, you're connecting with something in the art that's a reflection of you. If you hate it, the same holds true. If you're offended by it, chances are that the art itself is stirring something up in you.
What's more, it's probably something that remains unresolved in your own life.
So what does this mean? It means you should stop blaming the art you see for “offending you.”
Look ... I'm not a psychiatrist, but I have been looking at art long enough to know that you can actually find yourself by losing yourself in art. Isn't that the whole point?
Still, you have to be willing to do “the work.” Contemporary art is not for the faint of heart. You cannot “phone it in” with contemporary art. When you look at it you must search yourself.
While great contemporary art doesn't spoon feed you, it does nourish you. It reveals you to yourself and reminds you who you really are.
I think this is why every single artist I've ever interviewed has told me that they don't necessarily want people to see their work as they see it. That's because they know that art is extremely subjective. Everyone has their own unique relationship with the same exact work of art.
You decide what you see when looking at art. Art reveals your personal taste to you. It shows you the way. You ARE what you see ... and you ART what you see.
We can get into debates about the same work of art, but I believe that's ultimately a waste of precious, planet time.
Let's suppose you're in a museum looking at art. Imagine that you're looking at a painting that you love and that this work of art can think and speak.
As you admire the composition, line, shape and form of the work, here's what you're probably thinking to yourself:
“Oh my God! You're beautiful! Will you look at that! You are amazing!”
Now, imagine what the work of art is thinking in response:
“Holy crap! Dude, are you kidding me? You look great! Have you been working out? No, really!”
It's a natural attraction ... or repulsion, as the case may be.
Years ago, I was chatting with an art magazine editor at Art Basel Miami Beach. We both agreed that it takes time to forge a relationship with art. Forging that relationship builds confidence. It builds confidence in you and your ability to write and talk about art. It builds confidence in your ability to express what's right or wrong for you.
It really all comes down to you. Whether you like it or not, art is a mirror. It's literally a mirror on the wall that's telling you something about yourself.
You are what you see.
In fact, the same holds true for music or movies or writing or any creative endeavor. It’s true for artists, collectors and those who generally appreciate art. Whatever you're loving or hating is yelling right back at 'cha.
“Mirror, mirror on the wall ...”