Great art is about showing what we cannot see, or did not see — and as such it is inspirational.
Great art is also one of the most intimate forms of communication possible between two human beings, the artist and the viewer, as the viewer is able to see through the artist’s eyes. It is a form of intimacy where vision embraces vision.
As such, great art sells tickets – it is good box office. People want to see what the have not seen before or expand their vision of the world, plus we all crave honest intimacy.
Van Gogh showed human emotion where it usually does not seem to exist: in landscapes. We can see the world as van Gogh saw it and his work is personal, intimate and honest.
The ability to connect and share a personal vision that encompasses more that what we can normally see seems to be a hallmark or constant for great artists and art.
For instance, Cubism showed the other, unseen sides of a person or thing all at once. Only Superman, a fictional non-human has X-ray vision – the power to see beyond the front to the back. Yet Picasso, not only showed how to see in the-all-at-once way, he created intimate portraits of the women he loved and we can see them all-at-once thorough his works.
Physically, we can never fully see reality only with our eyes, even when corrected through scientific intervention, such as laser surgery, eyeglasses, telescopes or microscopes. For example, we can see the photographic pattern X-rays make, but our eyes cannot see x-rays, although they are there and therefore possible to physically perceive by a life form.
The range of colors that we see is really very limited. We know that other color vibrations, such as infrared, exist that we cannot see.
We cannot see atoms, and although experiments seem to prove their existence science continues to search for ways to more accurately show or prove their existence and that of particles.
However, what cannot be seen can be shown. It can be shown by illustrators and artists. Both create a physical visual representation of something. The difference is that the work of the artist is inspirational and intimate.
We cannot see the unconscious, but various Abstract Expressionists and Surrealists gave us impressions of it.
The shaman artists who painted in the caves, showed the visions that they saw in trances through their art. People were able to see other realities as if they saw through the eyes of their shaman.
Artists today are exploring ways of showing the scientific and spiritual unseen in nanoart, fractal art, UnGraven Image as well as continuing to evoke ideas with Conceptual and Word Art. The artists who will continue to be considered great will not only show these new realities, but do so in a way that is inspiring and intimate.
Great art inspires new ways of seeing ourselves and our world. It reaches beyond its historical context to communicate in the present. Hence, we are moved by Rembrandt, Da Vinci, Monet and other artists from different times than our own.
Marcel Duchamp put a urinal on display, entitled it “Fountain” and signed his work, R. Mutt he was fulfilling the role of the shaman-artist in a new way. Duchamp was daring us to see reality and art in a new way, making the heretofore profane holy as what is more profane than a urinal or more holy than art? The word “fountain” evokes metaphorical and mythological connotations of life and youth giving waters, plus references again religion as the work was first shown in France, a Catholic country where the churches all had fonts of holy water.
Since great art is personal and intimate it has to be honest and express the truth of the artist. Remember seeing a painting that was all blue of various shades. The artist had written that on the day when the painting was made he felt sad, blue, so to express himself he made this painting. It did express the artist’s feelings but it did not have a vision to communicate to the viewer. It was as intimate and honest as a child crying who wants her way, but it was not inspiring, only sad and common.
So a hallmark of great art is that it inspires the viewer to see the world in a new, unique way. The artist has something to communicate and manages to communicate it intimately.
A few years ago there was a show of van Gogh’s work at the Metropolitan Museum of art and I went on a cold and story winter day. The museum was packed it people and there was a waiting time of at least 45 minutes, with a line that snakes through floors and galleries on two levels. So, I decided to see some other work first. I found an interesting and free docent lecture about the Hudson River School with fewer than thirty other participants. I meandered through many uncrowded galleries and shows. As usual people were crowed in around the Met’s Monets and the Rembrandts, Cezanne, etc. There was no waiting at all at the galleries for the other special shows, all for renowned and critically acclaimed artists. Those shows were fairly empty and people moved along. When it became obvious the line was only growing longer, I joined it. There I overheard and chatted with strangers, many of whom had traveled into the city just to view this show, including teenagers on their own without an assignment, while others were returning for another viewing. The line was noisy but once we were allowed into full packed of rooms people spoke to each other in hushed voices if at all, except for the museum staff who occasionally shouted a plea with the viewers to move along, because many people, including me, would just stand before a work and just look and look.
It is almost kind of kinky to realize that there were whole roomfuls of people simultaneously having a personal, intimate experience with Vincent van Gogh, through his art.
Great art sells tickets, lots of tickets to blockbuster museum and even gallery shows – because people not only come, but then come again and again to be inspired and experience the intimacy of visual communication.
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Judy Rey Wasserman is an artist and the founder of Post Conceptual Art theory and also the branch known as UnGraven Image Art.
Check out the Fine Art Limited Edition prints, decorative prints, books, and printables that are currently available to you through Judy Rey’s Art of Seeing The Divine Shop. You don’t have to buy to avail yourself of the art and inspiration available there. However, if you select to collect investment quality archival art, or decorate your home with images created with strokes that are original letters from Bible texts, or buy a gift for someone special, there is a secure shopping cart that accepts most credit cards so your purchase is easy to accomplish.