How do you look at art? Wait, what?

One question that I’ve been pondering lately is quite annoying in its apparent simplicity: How do you look at art? In our busy lives, going from point “A” to point “B”, and trying to get everything possible done during the day, we often forget how to just look and think. In the Stamp Gallery I am asked a lot of questions about meaning and why a piece is what it is.  Often times I can give the inquirer  an answer but that answer is either one from the artist’s statement or from my own interaction with the piece. It is not the individual person’s individual answer. Why does that matter you might ask? Well in some ways it doesn’t matter. My opinions and the creator’s opinions are some ways of understanding the works but in my opinion experiencing art is more complex than that – not more difficult, just more complex. Asking yourself what you think when looking at a work of art has the potential to be infinitely more rewarding than trying to find an answer through somebody else.

With this idea in mind I present to you some thoughts on how to look at art.

1.Taking your time

The Stamp Gallery is an easy place to speed through. The gallery itself is not huge but there are many pieces housed here for the enjoyment of patrons. It is surprisingly easy to pop into the gallery and speed through on the way to class or work, spending little to no time with the pieces themselves. One of my biggest suggestions is take your time! Come in, look around, read descriptions, ask questions, sit down a while and think about what you are seeing. Come into the gallery when you have some time to spend with these awesome works of contemporary art. If you only have enough time to speed through, note which works are calling to you and make time to come back at a different time to explore them. Thought is best cultivated with time.

2. Going where you are pulled…

Art isn’t meant to be a chore – most of the time. Trying to pull something from a piece you have no interest in can be a good exercise but there is something rewarding in trusting your instincts and going where you are pulled. Do you like a specific piece? Ask yourself why or why not. Do you notice yourself pulled towards a certain medium or subject matter? These observations about what you like can provide insight into the works themselves and into your own opinions and worldviews!

3.Thinking about context…

If you are lost when it comes to meaning, think about the context of the piece. How is it presented to you? What does the description tell you about intent? A lot of contemporary art tends to interact with the world in which it is created. How do you think it works in the world around you?

4.Don’t judge yourself and your ideas – interpretation says something about your perspective on the world around you!

Sometimes you may think something about a piece and then dismiss your ideas as incorrect or stupid—don’t! Even if you pull something from the piece that the artist may not have intended in its creation, it does not mean that that something wasn’t in the piece too. Interpretation is a valuable part of the art viewing experience. Examining your own feelings and opinions towards a work can at times be even more valuable in reflecting on your own life than the artist’s original intentions are. Don’t judge yourself for thinking.

5.Be courteous and kind to other patrons!

Having your own experience with the art is important; however, remember that other people in the space are doing the same thing! Unless the art dictates otherwise, these spaces are generally good places to keep at lower volumes. Discussion is great when with a friend but when in the gallery, be courteous to people around you who might not want to deal with a lot of distractions competing with their experience. Read the room and you’ll be fine.

6.Have fun with it!!

Like I said earlier, art is not a chore. While pieces may be taxing emotionally or mentally, coming to a gallery should be an experience you enjoy. Galleries are fantastic places to reflect, to appreciate, to wonder, and to question things that you normally wouldn’t have the time to question otherwise. Most importantly, enjoy yourself. Art is a purely human endeavor and is therefore a miracle in itself.

Written by Kat Mullineaux.

The current show in the Stamp Gallery, CAPP: NEW ARRIVALS 2017 runs through October 14th.

Come by the Stamp Gallery and have your own experience with the art:

Monday – Thursday (10AM-8PM)

Friday (10AM-6PM)

Saturday (11AM-5PM)


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