Emotional Investment

There’s a part of all of us that wants something to be true, because we want it. Our child’s first drawings we coo over, holding them up and saying ‘look! He’ll be an artist yet…”” while the objective outsider smiles politely and wonders what the colorful blobs are meant to be. The stories we write, and then wonder why they don’t sell.

The First Reader, popping into the office this morning while in the middle of breakfast prep, threw ideas at me, as he knew I was sitting here muttering at the screen for the specific reason of needing to write down a blog. It’s art day, according to that loose schedule I keep throwing out the window. “Little darling’s art,” he said, “and why modern art looks like it does.”

Well, there is a sort of connection. You know we need an emotional investment in order to enjoy something. Without it, there is no emotion engaged, and the experience (be it a book, or viewing of an art piece) feels flat and lifeless. Intellectually we know this is a good thing, and we ought to like it. It hits the objective standards of…

What if it doesn’t hit those objectives? What about art, that like the child’s drawing, is loved only by those who already have an emotional investment in it? The creator, the gallery owner who wants it to sell so they have a profit, the critics whose livelihoods depend on being able to see something that isn’t really there. Which leaves the rest of us poor schmoes out in the cold, usually.

Look, I’m not knocking abstract art. I’ve gotten into that before. Look at Juniper’s work. I’m really emotionally involved in it, for obvious reasons, but people who aren’t have given us feedback (including one of her paintings selling recently at a charity auction, Yay, Juniper!) that there is something in those daubs of paint that engages the emotions. However, when the explanation of why we should care extends beyond a few words, then… the art isn’t doing it’s job.

I see a debate all the time that photography can’t truly be considered art because it only captures what is there, there is no emotion to it. I’d argue this. I’ve managed a few times, in my fumbling untrained way, to capture something that goes beyond a snapshot of reality. We humans, we want to put emotions into everything. Left to myself, I can read a lot into a photo, telling a mental story that extends far beyond reality. Then again, I am a storyteller.

This is a photo, and yet it is also art. I feel emotions when I look at it, and most people will do the same.

This is a photo, and yet it is also art. I feel emotions when I look at it, and most people will do the same.

Daffodil Sky

bright flowers against a bright sky… not art, just a snapshot. See the difference?


6 thoughts on “Emotional Investment

  1. Photography is definitely an art form. Just as with a painting, a photo needs to have elements of composition, mood, tone, etc. Anyone who has had to sit through a slide show of horrid vacation photos can attest to the artistic talent of a good photographer!


  2. If it helps, I took an Aesthetics class in college, and we spent a semester simply trying to tag a definition on “art.” Why is X art and Y not? After months of studying theories, looking at art, talking to artists and even making a little ourselves, we couldn’t. Fundamentally, all theories of aesthetics (see Nietzsche for a good example) are about the artist, rather than the works she creates. Not terribly helpful, non?


  3. I would also argue that photography can be art. I’ve made a few efforts of “artistic” shots. It is not as easy as it looks. -sg- [if you poke around on my fb page, you can see some of my efforts. Look in your f-list for Kat]

    I would disagree that the daffodils is not art though. By itself, perhaps, but against the sun and clear sky it speaks of the promise of spring. So, you just proved that art, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. 🙂


  4. The first time I learned to appreciate modern art is an interesting story. I was in early junior high, and we’d taken a field trip up to the Art Institute of Chicago. In the modern art section, I stood in front of a HUGE canvas that took up almost an entire wall… and was painted completely black. “Well, that’s just stupid,” I muttered to no one in particular, “it’s not a picture of anything.” Apparently Mrs. Hausermann, our parochial school’s volunteer art teacher, overheard me. “You think so?” she said, “Then why don’t you try standing right…” She looked back and forth between the canvas, the windows, and the overhead lights while walking around for a moment. “…here.” I stood where she told me. “What do you see?” she asked. “Nothing,” I said, “just black.” The she suggested, “Look at the brush strokes.” And, suddenly, I saw it – the brush strokes spun and swirled around in an intricate design that I can only describe as paisley-esque. It was beautiful, but because it was all done in one dark color, it was hard to see unless you stood at just the right angle. The emotion it evoked was unique and memorable, like being let into a private club and given the secret password to unlock a mysterious hidden message.

    I stared at it for a long time, not even noticing when Mrs. Hausermann moved on to another student. Ever since, although I’m often tempted to write off modern art as talentless and pointless, I usually pause for a second look, wondering if I’m missing something hidden… and I’m never quite sure. Even when I’m 99% sure it’s junk, there still a nagging 1% of me wondering if it’s just a riddle I haven’t solved yet.


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