We cannot control the art that moves us


Screenshot of The dress of the morning painting. This painting is from the European Surrealist movement and can be found in the Brooklyn Museum. Courtesy of the Winnipeg Art Gallery

Welcome, everyone, to the latest column of the opinion section. Although it is yet to be named, I hope to discuss some thought provoking and insightful ideas that both my peers and the world around us have presented throughout my life and all its silly little moments. I hope you like it and I’ll get back to you all for a title as soon as I can get my life together (whenever that is). Today I’d like to explore one of those silly little moments and finally make some intellectual progress on something that’s been bugging me for months.

That moment happened at the Brooklyn Museum, just last summer. Some friends had come to visit us and after walking around town we decided to check out the wonderful exhibits. After some pointless wandering, we ended up in a room full of European surrealist paintings. Out of everything scattered around the gallery, there was one piece that deeply moved me: The Dress of the Morning by Yves Tanguy. “I like this one,” I said immediately. “Why?” asked my friend.

I did not know

After my friend’s inquiry, I ended up thinking about the mixing of colors, the artist’s playful approach to depth, and the unique human shadow present among the amorphous figures that surround her. Then I realized that, to put it simply, I was talking straight. This brings me to the title of this piece: We cannot control the art that moves us.

My initial affection for the piece was not driven by any of these reasons. My declaration of appreciation was not a reaction to any of the aspects listed above – they came after the fact – but rather a reaction to a feeling of liking, divorced from any pretentious and elitist comment I had no ethos to make.

This kind of artistic fi phenomenon is what inspired this piece. The evocation of the painting was greater than the sum of its components—color, depth, and content—and I think there is something to be learned from that.

First, we must stop asking people to explain their interests or preferences using the rhetoric of a classical and elitist art culture. Art is made for the masses, and museums and exhibits are not limited to a population of people who have or think they have a “deeper understanding” of the works presented to them. People like this tend to come from more privileged financial and social backgrounds, and the perpetuation of a culture of high art criticism actively encourages oppressive class and elitist forces. The intellectualization of appreciation imposes an exclusionary wall against individuals who are not accepted into the art community, and this must change.

That being said, I also think we need to remember why we choose to experience art in the first place: to experience. To impose any predetermined predictions about what you will like is to rob yourself of a more natural way of consuming art. Of course, you’re more than allowed to explore a niche—just like I was when I was looking for surrealist paintings the other day—but don’t lock yourself into a particular medium without a few trial runs.

Also, what is the value of art if we run out complicate our assessment of him? Sure, over time I grew to love pieces (ones that didn’t initially blow me away the way Tanguy did), but it wasn’t an act of persuasion.

Where we are in life plays a valuable role in our understanding and projection onto art. We’ve all listened to “breakup songs” after losing that special someone or cried through a sad movie when we’ve been feeling down, just as we’ve all played our favorite songs at obnoxious volume and at an unruly hour of the night, for to celebrate even the smallest success. It’s okay to appreciate art just because you do, and that’s okay.

So, as a reminder to yourself: enjoy the art for what it is, and while it’s helpful to note what you like, sometimes it’s important to just leave it at that. We are all subjects of the arts; remember to cherish those moments of wonder they have to offer.

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