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What a painting "means" is useless and has likely always been so.

The new freedom will be to own our own experience of what is being viewed. The notion that anyone can "know" what the artist intended is preposterous. All the knowledge in the world about what was in the artist's mind can never get you inside the artists head.

My own paintings have never been about what I had to say or what I was trying to communicate---they have always been about the viewer having their own experience---whatever that might be---and owning that experience.

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      Dec 7 2012: I don't think this is an unpopular view at all. It is one of a number of widely held views, I think.
    • Dec 7 2012: Again, my premise isn't really about what the artist is trying to do---it is about the viewer. What is necessary for the viewer to be the viewer? What I am trying to get at is that "nothing" is "necessary." For example, we do not need to be taught anything or learn anything to appreciate a sunset. While it might be interesting to know that it is red because some volcano went off somewhere, the appreciation does not require that knowledge. Some may argue that the sunset is not art---painting the sunset is art. I would only say that there can be art that is "like" the sunset---art without "intent."
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        Dec 7 2012: It is clearly true that people can enjoy an artist's work without somehow understanding the artist's intent. We respond to colors and balance and so forth without any mediating understandings. Babies love stark contrasts and face-like features. People typically are attracted to things that are shiny. Those are the responses in the first second, that come from the earliest parts of the brain.

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