tube sculpture kelly wearstler

Recently someone was in my studio and they asked me what the meaning was behind my painting that was hanging on the wall. I told them that there was no meaning. It’s abstract expressionism. My paintings are more about the color palettes I choose, and the actual act painting is all how I feel in the moment and sometimes the paint has it’s own mind.

In the current style of work I’m creating I don’t start each painting with much of a plan besides the color palette and size of the canvas. Sometimes I’ll start with a base color out of the predetermined color palette, but that’s about it.

When I discuss things like this I like to look up the actual definition of the term.

According to Merriam-Webster the definitions offered for “art” are:

+ something that is created with imagination and skill and that is beautiful or that expresses important ideas or feelings

+ works created by artists: paintings, sculptures, etc., that are created to be beautiful or to express important ideas or feelings

+ the methods and skills used for painting, sculpting, drawing, etc.

I actually disagree with Merriam-Webster. I don’t think a piece of art has to be “beautiful” or express something “important.”

According to Google “art” means:

+ the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power

+ the various branches of creative activity, such as painting, music, literature, and dance

It might drive people nuts that my work doesn’t necessarily have a meaning, but I don’t care. Art is subjective. If you want it to mean something it can to you

If you just like it because you like it and you can’t explain why, fine. You might like a piece of artwork because of the colors, or the technique, or the texture, or because it reminds you of something.

Maybe there is a meaning, maybe there isn’t, maybe you just want to give it one for yourself. An artist can create art with a meaning, but it might make you feel something completely different — and the artist can’t control your reaction to their work. To me, that is such an interesting part of art. Why some people attracted to certain things and others dislike it? How our reactions to the same thing can be so different.

For example, the tube sculpture above by Kelly Wearstler, the only description given on her site is that it was born out of Kelly’s love of free form and asymmetrical patterns. I don’t need more of an explanation. I love it. I like the imperfectness and non symmetry of it. I like the color and that it’s simple.

Now, if there is a meaning to a piece of art, I do like to know what it is. But I also like to know a lot about the artist, their career, their circumstances, and why they made certain choices. What was art to them? What was their creation process? I’m interested in all of those details beyond just the meaning of one piece. Is the piece a part of a bigger series? What’s the point of the series? Is there a point to the series? Does there have to be?

Now I want you to weigh in — where do you stand on the meaning of art?

What does art mean to you?