Friday, September 18, 2009

The Meaning of Art

Yesterday I had a request from a high school student, who is writing a paper about the painting "AM" (above).  She wanted to know the deeper meaning behind the piece.  Here is part of how I responded:

Hi Kate,

The answer to your first question is that I am not really sure what the AM letters represent.  I can only assume it was someone's initials as they were carved into the log when I found it in the Snow Mountain Wilderness area in Northern California.  I like to think it was describing a state of mind as in "I am" — meaning just being yourself. 
In the ancient practice of Chi Gong, butterflies are often thought to represent the soul emerging from an earthly body and becoming free.  Butterflies also represent metamorphosis in all kinds of cultures and traditions. 

Ultimately it is up to the viewer to decide for herself what a painting can mean.  Often, artists are making suggestions or asking questions themselves when they make a piece of art.  I believe the beauty of art is the mystery that it can create.  Understanding and asking ourselves why we are drawn to a particular painting will invariably create more questions that we dont know always know the answers to.  This can become quite frustrating at times!  All we can really do is just be ourselves.  Which is what I hope the bear represents.

Robert Bissell.

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