Two recent conversations illustrate two prevalent myths that get in the way of experiencing art.
As I was making dinner recently I overheard my partner, Tim, talking on the phone to his brother about an upcoming show of mine. I was dismayed to hear him say that he knows just about nothing about art. This, I know, cannot possibly be true since not only does he live with me making art on a daily basis, but he has also accompanied me to the MoMA, the Guggenheim, local art museums and galleries, attended my openings, and watched numerous documentaries about art. We frequently have deep philosophical discussions about art. He knows a lot about art. He speaks very articulately about art. Yet the fact that he has never taken an art history class nor does he consider himself to be an artist makes him erroneously believe that he knows very little about art.
A local artist friend of mine, and I have been meeting at a café regularly to talk about art. He’s been asking for feedback on his work as he becomes reacquainted with his muse. He admitted that even after receiving a BFA, an MFA and teaching for 6 years, he still has a hard time talking about people’s work. He subscribed to the ‘let the art do the talking school of thought’ for so long that he struggles with communicating about art.
These two conversations are related. They both reinforce common myths about art from two different perspectives, one of an artist and the other a non-artist.
Myth #1: If you don’t have a degree in art, or you aren’t fluent in the lingo, you don’t know anything about art.
Myth #2: Art speaks for itself. Words and language are unnecessary since art is a visual experience. If you it doesn’t speak for itself it’s not doing its job. If you don’t understand it, you must not know anything about art.
Humans are very visual creatures. We have been making images ever since we were able to pick up something that leaves a mark on the wall of a cave. Art is part of the human experience that has evolved with us. The fact that so many people don’t know how to talk about it or feel intimidated by art illustrates to me that there is a disconnect between what we perceive art is or should do and our actual human experience with art.
Why are artists and non-artists alike so reluctant to talk about, or even experience, art? What is the barrier for you? Let me know. I will be writing more to debunk these myths in the next few days.