This is a story about interpreting a painting or sculpture. ArtNet starts it off with 14 works pronounced “calming.” The list was well-intentioned: “To help you relax despite everything giving you anxiety right now.” The pandemic is still a worry.
Art of anxiety
But here’s the thing. None of the 14 artworks does anything to “relax” me. Just the opposite. They stir reactions ranging from tense to outright trepidation. The words of American essayist Susan Sontag come to mind: “Interpretation is the revenge of the intellectual upon art.”
Interpretation isn’t a fact
Allow me to demonstrate how art interpretation cannot be announced like some factoid. Personal reactions not only come into play, they’re the whole ballgame. Letting others figure out what an artwork means leaves you on the sidelines.
Of course, this means that my takes on the following works don’t need to be yours.