Beside me, my boyfriend Thomas peered at two photographs. One looked like the rings of a tree (intricate) and the other was an outline of a red circle at the center of white paper (simple). He shook his head ruefully.
"What's the matter?" I asked him.
"I just don't understand why this would be considered art," he replied, pointing to the red circle. He gestured to another piece, one with light gray criss-crossed lines on another simple white background. "I mean, I could draw a few squiggles like that, but I wouldn't consider it worthy of hanging in a museum."
While the art-lover in me was slightly offended at his notion that this couldn't be considered 'art', he was making some pretty valid points. How do curators choose which pieces are worthy enough to hang in museum exhibits? Consequently, why are some of the most simplistic pieces poignant to some people, but unreceptive to others?
'Art' is a subjective term. The dictionary describes it as, 'the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination,...producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power'; while these standards are typically met in the creation of artistic works (poetry, prose, and the visual/performing arts), the appreciation of them is ultimately up to the viewers.
The success of a piece depends on who contemplates it, not how much time or creative work went into making the piece itself. If something took three years to complete and the artist considered it their greatest work, it could be received as 'just okay' by the viewers; conversely, a piece that took a day to complete and used minimum resources could be worth $10,000 in the eyes of an art investor simply because the piece made them 'feel good'.
But why? Why do some pieces intended for greatness only make people more critical? The answer to this question is just as subjective as people's opinions on the pieces themselves. Consequently, no matter what the viewer sees, the artist's job is completed once their art has been seen. They have created a reaction in their piece (positive and/or negative), and thus the art has done its duty.
So next time you look at/read/view an artistic creation, take a moment to ask yourself what the picture might look like to someone else. While you may feel nothing when you see a few squiggles on paper, another might feel inspired or angry or...you get the idea. Looking at a fresh perspective can make viewing artwork you're unused to an entertaining experience all the same.
DISCLAIMER: I don't own the artwork used in this post.