I heard professor and photographer Steve O'Bryan speak recently about his art images when he gave a presentation of his photography work at the Louisville Art Association meeting. One thing that I keep thinking about afterwards is people's individual response to art. He showed images from his career as a photographer and talked about the lasting impact of some images. I was really intrigued. He talked about our human desire for meaning and the necessity to find unique meaning in our lives through the art we choose. When you go to a show ask a few people to choose their favorite and the choices will be different ones.
Have you had the experience of coming upon a piece of art that grabs you in the heart or makes you catch your breath. I asked a few people about that and one described feeling almost dizzy, lightheaded and taken aback by a certain work. Another, Kim, my artist friend was told the story, by a person who bought her painting, of how she chose the painting. She was walking by it on the way to work-out, as it was hanging in the recreation center. She saw it and stopped short … looking at it … feeling stunned at how much the piece spoke to her. It was an oil painting of a skier. She was unable to get it out of her head until she bought it. It’s a very personal way of choosing art. See it. Fall in love. Buy it.
O’Bryan said he studies and sometimes presents on the ideas of mythologist, Joseph Campbell's work. I love Joseph Campbell too, so I googled him to see what would come up. I found a free book that he'd finished just days before he died called Art As A Revelation. Wow. Does choosing art involve a revelation? What luck. A free download. I set about to read it and got quite overwhelmed in a tangle of too much, too packed, too technical information, but I couldn't stop reading. I had to highlight and reread every few paragraphs so I could get it. I couldn't put it down because I felt like I was searching — searching for something that would help me, as an artist understand: what is that phenomenon that causes a physical reaction to a work of art. I wanted to know what JC had to say about the phenomenon. I had a hunch it might be something about revelation.
As an artist, sometimes I just start a work with a tiny thread of an idea and sometimes I start with a firm idea of what I want to create but invariably what I end up with is way different. It’s because as I get in the zone of working, images and themes come from inside. That's how to choose art -- start with a thread of an artwork you are looking for and be open to falling in love with something that is way different. I recently sold a work at Uncommon Clay 3 at ArtsLongmont, in Colorado, "Be The Tree." I feel gratified when I envision that that work has meaning for another. Art is a powerful medium uniting the unique world of artist with the unique world of those who get it and choose it.