Art: Emotional or Intellectual Connection

Often I get tired of receiving messages. We all have to deal with thousands of messages each day: advertisements in newspapers, magazines, billboards, television, and radio; email messages, text messages, voice messages, subliminal messages, telephone messages, etc. When I look at art, the last thing I want to have to do is decipher some sort of hidden message. I want artwork to calm my soul and refresh my senses. I want to forget the messages of the world and look at the beauty of a painting that stirs my emotion - not necessarily my intellect.
Since I am an artist I cannot look at a work of art and not think about it's structure, composition, colors, shapes, and values. To me that is a natural response, not an intellectual response. I appreciate a work that gives me a place to feel, a place to connect with a deeper, richer place. A place of beauty. I appreciate artists that create work that is trying to send a message, however when I create work I want it to grab someone's emotions and not let go. What I love about abstract paintings is they allow the viewer to project their own life experiences, meanings, and feelings into the work. The work has to engage the viewer, and let the viewer determine what they see. That is pure freedom, because everyone will see something different and bring their own views to the work. This makes the work more personal for each person that sees it. The work does not tell the whole story - nor should it. One of my favorite contemporary painters, Brian Rutenberg, puts it this way: "An eye told not to see sees more".
Following are a few related thoughts:

  • Just because a work of art does not have a specific meaning does not mean that it does not have "content" or "intentions."
  • Does having a strong intellectual message make the art worth more or less?
  • Is it the emotional connection that really sells the art? This is an idea totally downplayed by many art critics who believe that if there is no intellectual message beyond the beauty of the piece then the art is worthless.
  • The art critic for my hometown paper (I will not use his name) always tries to imbue the work he critiques with some sort of imaginary intellectual attributes to make the art more current, or valuable, or interesting, or desirable regardless of whether the message is there or not.
  • Is the work less desirable if it stimulates emotion rather than intellect? Is the work less valid?
  • Can art simultaneously stimulate both emotion and intellect?  

If you have any thoughts you would like to share please do so - I would love to hear from you.