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View Poll Results: When you see a work of visual art, what is your primary response?
Perceptual 22 37.93%
Emotional 25 43.10%
Communicative 2 3.45%
Intellectual/Cognitive 9 15.52%
Voters: 58. You may not vote on this poll

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Old 08-11-2005, 12:33 AM
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wtfarrar wtfarrar is offline
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How do you respond to art?

While in one of the local libraries last week, I cam across this book The Art of Seeing (1990) by Mihaly Czikszentmihalyi and Rick Robinson which was published by the Getty.

The authors did used a survey to get people's verbal responses to a work of art. The participants in the study were all museum professionals.

In this study, the authors suggested that people tend to interpret visual works of art using four dimensions:

1. Perceptual- Your primary response is visual. Which means that the you primarily focus on the visual relationships in the work, like harmony, balance, and color.

2. Emotional- Your primary response is emotional- joy, inspiration, love, anger, hate, and frustration.

3. Communication- You primarily respond to the work of art as a dialogue or conversation: looking for it's message. You try to understand what the author is trying to say. It is a dialogue (The authors mention three types: communication with an era or culture, communication with the artist, communication within oneself)

4. Intellectual/Cognitive- The work is like a puzzle to be solved. There are nuances of technique to discover, using the work to generate multiple interpretations of it's meaning, or conversely, trying to work out it's meaning. Sleuthing the work, to pull out it's historical/biographical references. Which ever, the initial response is that it provokes an intellectual response.

The authors recognize that all these occur- and it can be quite close for people- but they were particularly interested in seeing when one mode was dominant over the other.

I thought it would be fun to see how the WetCanvas! community polls on this, and, of course, post why you felt the way you did.
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Old 08-11-2005, 12:41 PM
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Re: How do you respond to art?

Color!!!!!!!
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Old 08-11-2005, 02:28 PM
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Re: How do you respond to art?

Huh. I think I would have to say 'experiential/relational.' When I first open a thread and look at a piece of art, if I see something that REALLY speaks to me, I almost want to embrace it. Not joking!

Earlier this summer I fell in love with a piece of art (my first time ) and purchased it, and just about now it's on its way to me. I can't wait to hold it in my arms! lol

My second response, I think, varies with the piece. I can remember many times I've tried to analyze work, basically because I was commenting on literally everything in the Abs/Con forum for months. So I would try to say, either, why something was working for me, or why I thought I wasn't responding to it. I've used perceptual 'explanations,' cognitive ones, and communicative ones, depending on what I can dig out of myself and what I think might be useful to the artist. I seldom give an emotional response, not sure why. Seems like a cop-out?

In the case of the piece that really grabbed me, though, it took me about 3 days to be able to verbalize 'why!' And when I say 'fell in love,' it wasn't actually an emotional response; it felt a lot more like a strong hunger to have it; or more accurately to see the whole, real thing, in its full size. It wasn't really coveting, since I'd be happy simply to be able to visit it, if it lived in a museum near me. So possession wasn't part of it. I just hungered to see the piece IRL!

Really great art speaks before it can be understood, as someone quoted to me. That's true. When I see a piece online that grabs me, I hunger to see it for real. In a museum, to the best of my recollection, I used to just stand there and stare for a long time at a piece that spoke to me, or (if it wasn't too crowded) I'd find a bench and stare for a long time. I wasn't being analytical in those days (pre-disability, obviously, and prior to my attempt to become visual). I was simply waiting (passively, for the most part) for the piece to transport me. Great art makes me feel like 'I'm there,' or I'm experiencing something, through whatever experience the artist is re-presenting to me.

I feel as if I'm in a relationship with a great work, as I experience it. But I'm very, very passive, if it's great work. I'm analytical only afterwards, or with works that aren't as great, in any of those styles (well, maybe not emotional so much!).

And color is certainly a huge factor in my response much of the time. Content can be, sometime -- an unusual experience, or a compelling experience, or something rendered in an unusual way. Emotional content (the way Vincent van Gogh painted Starry Night, for example) is also compelling, if it's not 'sentimental.' (My negative reaction to sentimentality almost certainly stems from its manipulative character. If the painter portrays a huge emotion honestly, not manipulatively, I do not react against the work. At the slightest touch of manipulation, though, I seem to draw back to make some distance for myself.)

Now look how long I've been writing. Must be a very interesting question! *sigh*
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Old 08-11-2005, 02:54 PM
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Re: How do you respond to art?

wtfarrar:
Mihaly Czikszentmihalyi has another book out that deals with Creativity and one called FLOW.
I have read both and find him to be pedantic and overly wordy. That is not to downgrade the contents, however, which are very complete and knowledgeable.

Depending upon the art presented, and music is art too, one might perceive using the ears first, since visual music is as rare as Fantasia.
I agree with emotional. Communication may also be in the form of intuition, impulsive or "gut reactions".
Sometimes the vicarious participant is engaged intellectually, but not always. Perhaps Mihaly Czikszentmihalyi is seeing the world through his personal value system filters. He is, after all an intellectual through and through.
Different strokes for different folks.
Total sensory involvement is desired in order to absorb as much content from new experiences or discoveries as possible, so said Margaret Meade.
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Old 08-11-2005, 03:10 PM
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Re: How do you respond to art?

Quote:
"Really great art speaks before it can be understood, as someone quoted to me. That's true. When I see a piece online that grabs me, I hunger to see it for real. In a museum, to the best of my recollection, I used to just stand there and stare for a long time at a piece that spoke to me, or (if it wasn't too crowded) I'd find a bench and stare for a long time. I wasn't being analytical in those days (pre-disability, obviously, and prior to my attempt to become visual). I was simply waiting (passively, for the most part) for the piece to transport me. Great art makes me feel like 'I'm there,' or I'm experiencing something, through whatever experience the artist is re-presenting to me."

Carol:
As an Artist and as an Experiencer of art, you are extremely articulate. I feel that you are very sensitive and empathic to the artist's message as well as the mystery of the art itself.

Sustained staring allows the eyes to rove about (or the ears, or hands in the case of those who are blind) the art, finding places wherein we can identify a certain harmonic similarity within ourselves. I think it is important to empathically identify as closely as you can with the artifact or performance.

Sometimes, if we are good enough, or lucky enough, we achieve that wondrous, AHA! or OHO! that signals rapport. It is the finest reward we can get from any art, isn't it?
Nic
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Old 08-11-2005, 03:15 PM
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Re: How do you respond to art?

And Contrast. The point or locus of maximum contrast should be the place of maximum importance to artist and the experiencer of the art.
Nic
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Old 08-11-2005, 09:45 PM
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Re: How do you respond to art?

Well, it would have been nice if the poll included a radio button for 'all of the above'.

However, my own answer isn't all of the above.

As you've described 'visual', my primary response to works of visual art isn't 'visual'.

I think my primary response is an intertwined combination of the other three: Communication, Emotional, and Cognitive/Intellectual.

I really don't believe that I primarily respond in only one of these ways.

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Old 08-11-2005, 10:05 PM
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Re: How do you respond to art?

Not "visual"; perceptual was the choice offered.
We have already alluded to other forms of art than visual that should have been included. Art for the blind, for instance, may be responded to perceptually, but not visually as well.
The question, "When you see a work of visual art, what is your primary response?" probably should be limited to those who are sighted and therefor see the art first before responding to it.
Nic
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Old 08-11-2005, 10:37 PM
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Re: How do you respond to art?

Yes, Nic, it is a wondrous gift... the gift of the Other, in fact. And great art gives it again and again, every time one stands before it, seeking. That's probably why I started collecting art long before I thought about painting seriously myself.
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Old 08-11-2005, 10:38 PM
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Re: How do you respond to art?

KR, I knew if I put "all of the above", that would be the most common answer.



Beadguy- I've leaved through the book, Flow, but never read it- In sympathy with you, I wasn't in the mood for his style (I know the popular version of the idea that arose from the book. However, the popularized version probably gets it wrong ). I like your thoughts on aesthetic response.

I'm trying (and its very hard) to keep my posting here to a minimum.
But, I enjoy very much hearing people's response to the question. As always, you all have delightful insights to share.
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Old 08-11-2005, 10:40 PM
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Re: How do you respond to art?

FriendCarol-

If the "gift of the other" is in the work of art...I'd definitely call that "communication"
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Old 08-11-2005, 10:45 PM
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Re: How do you respond to art?

My first response to a painting is purely visual--what attracts me most(in both mine and others)is strong contrast, color, and texture(usually in that order). After that attracts me--draws me in, so to speak--my next response really depends on the style of the piece. If it's a realistic/representational work, I usually look for an emotional response only--if it's an abstract, I feel it has to really touch me emotionally AND communicate some type of reasoning(however minimal)behind creating it. I've only recently begun to appreciate more abstract works--used to totally ignore any and all of them(museums, etc...)--just did NOT get it at all! Now, I'm actually considering the possibility of doing one of my own; a year or two ago, you would NEVER have heard me say that! Intellectual/cognitive responses are usually the last thing that I think about. Interesting poll!

Michele
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Old 08-11-2005, 11:00 PM
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Re: How do you respond to art?

Hi, Bill, I know what you're saying, but:
Quote:
Communication- You primarily respond to the work of art as a dialogue or conversation: looking for it's message. You try to understand what the author is trying to say. It is a dialogue (The authors mention three types: communication with an era or culture, communication with the artist, communication within oneself)
this specific definition didn't match my experience at all. I'm not 'looking for what the author/artist is trying to say.' I'm not 'trying to understand' -- it's a very passive process on my side, what happens to me. Later, after the experience -- after I've left the museum or years later -- then I might be more analytical, and ask this sort of thing. (Though I can't remember doing that. But then I wouldn't necessarily know what Self is saying or asking, would I? lol)

One artist recently told me I needed to look at more art in an analytical way, but I'm not quite sure I am in a position yet to relate what I see in other work to what I want to do myself. The two processes -- appreciating (very passive) and making (very active) art are still too separate for me, I think.

Other artists have told me to, in effect, become less active in painting, that I should be in dialogue with what's on the paper. I understand that directive, and I can do that; but for me now that's a detour, because I am attempting to learn to express myself visually. That is a far more active process, at this stage of my development, than it may be after a few years experience. For now, the two things are still very, very different for me. I suspect this is also why I have such a hard time trying to critique my own pieces: I'm 'seeing' my process, instead of seeing the piece (the way I 'see' pieces painted by others).

Appreciating a piece is like 'listening' but without the 'active listening' of asking questions, etc. I'm just open to hearing the experience the work wants to offer me, when I sense there is something there. When I can't sense something there, it all gets very analytical and I might try any other method of 'appreciating' it -- but that's not my natural response to real art.

It seemed to me this is very relevant, when I wondered why my usual, normal response is not one of those listed:
Quote:
The participants in the study were all museum professionals.

Last edited by FriendCarol : 08-11-2005 at 11:04 PM.
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Old 08-11-2005, 11:02 PM
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Re: How do you respond to art?

Abstract art, for me is very like Jazz Music. Great Jazz and great abstract art are more alike than different to me. I can listen to jazz all day in my studio. Makes me more productive.

Nic
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Old 08-11-2005, 11:09 PM
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Re: How do you respond to art?

The way I evaluate an exhibition is if it makes me want to rush home and create something wonderful, it has succeeded. Stimulating other artists is the best and one of the highest goals for the working artist.
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