One thing I often hear people say is, “I don’t know much about art, but I know what I like.” I usually counter with, “Have you considered that perhaps it’s more that you like what you know?” I have found this the case with a lot of modern and contemporary art—when something looks “weird” or is challenging to figure out, some people throw up their hands and walk away. Unlike some genres of art where a tree looks like a tree or a house looks like a house, contemporary art doesn’t always just hand you the answers; you have to think about what you’re looking at and figure out the artist’s intent. Are they trying to teach you? Create an emotional response? Possibly even shock you? In my mind, that’s half the fun of art—engaging your brain to figure out the puzzle of what the artist is trying to say. After all, art is about communication, so ask yourself: What is the artist trying to tell me? Or show me?
Let’s put this into context. A really interesting artwork at the Appleton Museum is a painting by Cuban artist Sandro de la Rosa entitled Shortcut. The painting shows a young girl in a red skirt drawing on a wall. When you see that she is drawing a door, questions arise. Is this the simple act of childhood chalk drawings or is something deeper going on here? The drawn door is right next to a real door that is padlocked shut—perhaps the girl is creating another way to get through? Notice that the artist is from Cuba. Maybe this has the political meaning of trying to escape an oppressive regime? The understanding of the art is left to the viewer to interpret, and that is what is great about contemporary art; you bring your own world experiences and knowledge into your understanding of what you are seeing, much like how artists work. Art is never made in a vacuum. It is influenced by the times in which it is made, and artists’ biases and experiences inevitably make their way into the artworks they create.
In short, your interpretations of art have meaning, and how cool is that? So, I invite you to linger, put on your “patience cap” and spend time looking, really looking, at art that may be outside your comfort zone. You might be surprised by what you see.
Learn more › Appleton Museum of Art › 4333 E Silver Springs Blvd., Ocala › www.appletonmuseum.org › (352) 291-4455
A former professional archaeologist, Patricia Tomlinson joined the Appleton Museum of Art as Curator of Exhibitions in 2016 after having served as curatorial staff in the New World Department at the Denver Art Museum for eight years.