To most people, art is supposed to mean something or make you feel a certain way. We judge it not only on how it looks or sounds, but what emotions it can stir within us or what thoughts it provokes.
As an artist, I spend a lot of my time hoping my art will fulfill this expectation, or that people will like it, or at the very least, that they’ll give it more than just a passing glance. Before reading Gwendolyn Brooks’ poem “The Picasso of Chicago,” I believed this was the extent of the relationship between artist and viewer. I hadn’t really considered how unique the experience I was hoping I was creating truly is, the experience between the piece of art and the observer.
Brooks points out that though we may love a piece of music, poetry, or artwork, we do not treat it in the same way we would with anything else we love. With a person, we hug or hold, inanimate objects we keep close and wear out. For poetry and music, the physical aspects would be impossible regardless of if this difference existed, though it’s proven to be different by sculptures and paintings. These are physical items that we treat with such opposite affection of how we would treat any other beloved item. We put them in glass displays, high on walls, never to be touched or physically appreciated, only looked at.
Brooks also points out that not all art is ‘loved,’ the art that often makes you feel brings a sense of discomfort or discontent. Despite this, the viewer may spend an extreme amount of time observing the piece. People often even come back to view the very art that caused them distress. It truly is strange and seemingly against human nature to love something and show it by holding it farther away, or purposely view something that makes us less comfortable, though that is the human relationship with art. (Margaret Motzel / City of Stories Student)