As a former lab aide, studio assistant, and camera rentals associate, I’ve spent plenty of time talking to artists with all sorts of backgrounds.
But regardless of where they’re at in their career or what kind of art education they’ve received, many artists have been mislead to believe that visual art requires no explanation or context. That, in fact, their art can speak for itself.
Seriously, when I hear someone say something like, “I’d rather let my audience find their own meaning in this piece,” it’s like nails on a chalkboard.
It. Drives. Me. Crazy.
First of all, assuming that your audience has the visual literacy or frame of reference to understand your work is, well, presumptuous. By doing so, you’re alienating a part of your potential audience who could otherwise find meaning in your work with the help of some information.
Secondly, you’re silencing the conversation before it ever starts. Knowing just enough about a piece of art or a body of work helps people ask questions, and entices them to think. Without context, it’s much easier to walk away from a work of art and never think about it again.
GOOD ARTISTS HAVE A VOICE
Your art didn’t materialize out of thin air. There’s no such thing as a purely original idea. So acknowledge your inspiration, whether it be a pressing social issue, another artist, or the oak tree in your childhood backyard. Not only will this help you think more clearly about your practice, but it will help others understand why you’re investing your time, energy, and talent into your work.
To learn more about the importance of communication, both in life and in art, check out the video! I’ve even included some tips that have helped me write and talk about my art in the past