Since my last post I’ve had emotions on my mind. More specifically, I’ve been obsessing over the way different artists handle the idea of emotion in their work. Beginning with the Modern era, artists seem to be divided into two separate teams; (a)those who create a piece intending to elicit a specific emotion from the viewer and (b)those who create a piece and then leave the emotional interpretation completely at the viewer’s disposal.
To be even more specific: Look at a piece by Rothko who is quoted as wanting to portray the human emotions of tragedy, ecstasy, and doom. No matter where you’re from, what baggage you bring to the table, or how your day is going, Rothko expects you to feel a certain way when looking at his paintings. Now, look at the photograph by Klein that I discussed in my last post. Klein created a memorable image, but includes no cues as to how it’s supposed to make us feel. It’s completely up to the viewer to determine whether it’s a tragic or freeing image. Depending on the viewer’s circumstance, it can be interpreted in dozens of ways.
Now the big question- is one better than the other? Does one team win the Emotion Games? Probably not. As with every big question regarding the validity of a piece of art, it’s completely subjective. It’s frustrating sometimes to never have answers. As a problem solver by nature, it can be hard to constantly admit defeat in the face of these sorts of questions. But maybe that’s why I’m so drawn to art. As a person who lives for structure and schedules and deadlines, it can be nice to have no definite answers. Everything is subjective and the only thing that validates a piece of art is the opinion of one person. That makes our role as viewers almost as important as the artist. If I, a person completely removed from the creative process, can look at a Giacometti on a bad day and know how it feels to be one of his weathered, withered, lonely forms or if Gauguin’s colors remind me of family vacations to Florida in the 1990s, then that piece is validated, even if no one else agrees. We create and assign worth, while the artists simply create and assign the imagery.