Image courtesy of wikipedia.org
The Mona Lisa is perhaps the most famously elusive and enigmatic painting that exists. For centuries viewers and scholars have debated the emotive expression and the artistic intent. The many perspectives to interpreting Mona Lisa will continue for many more centuries.
A friend said to me that I should write from another person’s perspective rather than from my own. I argued this is impossible. Even the most gifted writers (or actors) may construct a perspective, often by researching and immersing themselves in their subject’s world, meanwhile inevitably they cull from their own personal experience and history, leaving what is constructed from the creator’s point of view. Another example, consider the study of animal behavior. Researchers devote a lifetime to the study and observation of animals; although, without language (and I do believe in visual as well as verbal language) humans cannot know with certainty an animal’s true intent or emotion. Thus, the interpretation and analysis often results in an anthropomorphizing of animal behavior, relating the animal to what we know.
Claire Fontaine, a Paris collective working under a pseudonym created this diagram of percentages of language used for communicating and interpretations. Claire Fontaine’s art puts into question individuality, originality, authorship, and the meaning of everyday signs and symbols. I interpret the painting above as an example of means to miscommunication. As a viewer, I bring forth my experience and perspective, which may be altogether different from the artist’s intent or the perspective of the next viewer. We each hold our own perspective, but by sharing we help each other expand our point of view.
You can have compassion, empathy, and connectivity towards another human being (or animal). You can totally relate to another person, but with out language there exists numerous possibilities for misunderstanding (and even with language there can be varied interpretations). My truest attempts to approach my writing from another person’s point of view are still channeled through my perspective. Even in conducting an interview, which one would think should clearly reveal another person’s point of view, an interviewer is directing and constructing the questions. It seems impossible not to prejudice perspective without one’s own experience and knowledge. Goethe, in Faust, stated, “We don’t know what we see; we see what we know.” This is quite right.
Art is made purely as an expression of an artists’ personal perception. They create from their window on life, humanity, politics, nature, beauty, love, and death. Great artists create with their mind and their emotion in unison. The art that has the greatest resonance; visual, musical, literary, and performance are created from deep within the personal for a truly profound experience and when this is done successfully it relates to the universal. All of humanity is connected by true emotions.
Famous works of art such as Edvard Munch’s “The Scream’, resonate with everyone as an expression of deep angst. We do not know what deep personal experience inspired him to paint this masterpiece, yet we can all relate to the emotion it portrays, because it is a universal feeling.
Image courtesy of wikimedia.org
Likewise, Auguste Rodin’s ‘The Martyr’, passionately expresses both suffering and ecstasy – rapturous emotions of love.
Try as we may to be clairvoyant, open-minded, or transcendent in our state of mind, in fact, we have our own singular perspective. Yet, this in my opinion is why art matters–to stretch our perspective, open up possibilities, and relate to the world. The same eye of humanity looks out from every person. Naturally each person has joy, pain, elation, guilt, happiness, and suffering. By accessing deeply and honestly into oneself a universal consciousness surfaces.
Another friend encouraged me to continue writing, saying that no one else knows what I know or sees through my lens. I write what I know, through my words, I share my perspective.
Miyako Ishiuchi’s enigmatic photograph leaves the viewer pondering intimacy, perhaps sexuality. The title Mother’s #49, the words (and numbers) may alter the viewer’s interpretation. The deeply intimate feelings, yet the perspective shifts once knowing the title and the artist’s statement. Words alter the visual image. The images from Ishiuchi’s Mother’s series, in fact, reveal the sadness of loss and mourning. (the image above is a close up of Mother’s #49)