How To Choose Art - Does it Involve a Revelation?

 By Emilie Parker, Painter and Sculptor

I heard professor and photographer Steve O'Bryan speak recently about his art images when he gave a presentation of his photography work at the Louisville Art Association meeting.  One thing that I kept thinking about afterwards was people’s individual response to art.  He showed images from his career as a photographer and talked about the lasting impact of some images.  I was really intrigued.  He talked about our human desire for meaning and the necessity to find unique meaning in our lives through the art we choose.  When you go to an art show ask a few people to choose their favorite and the choices will be different ones.  

Have you had the experience of coming upon a piece of art that grabs you in the heart or makes you catch your breath?  I asked a few people about that and one described feeling almost dizzy, lightheaded and taken aback by a certain work.  Another, Kim, my artist friend was told the story, by a person who bought her painting, of how she chose the painting.  She was walking by it on the way to work-out, as it was hanging in the recreation center. She saw it and stopped short … looking at it … feeling stunned at how much the piece spoke to her.  It was an oil painting of a skier.  She was unable to get it out of her head until she bought it.  It’s a very personal way of choosing art.  See it.  Fall in love.  Own it.

Steve O’Bryan said he studies and sometimes presents on the ideas of mythologist, Joseph Campbell's work.  I love Joseph Campbell too, so I Goggled him to see what would come up.  I discovered that he'd finished a book just days before he died called “Art as a Revelation”.  Wow.  Does choosing art involve a revelation?  What luck - a free download!  I set about to read it and got quite overwhelmed in a tangle of too much, too packed, too technical information, but I couldn't stop reading.  I had to highlight and reread every few paragraphs so I could get it.  I couldn't put it down because I felt like I was searching — searching for something that would help me, as an artist understand: what is that phenomenon that causes a physical reaction to a work of art?  I wanted to know what Joseph Campbell had to say about the phenomenon.  I had a hunch it might be something about revelation.

Emilie Parker, clay artist holds Mokoli'is Hat!   

As an artist, sometimes I just start a work with a tiny thread of an idea and sometimes I start with a firm idea of what I want to create but invariably what I end up with is way different.  It's always a revelation.   It’s because as I get in the zone of working, images and themes come from inside.  That's what I'm saying about how to choose art -- start with a thread of an artwork you are looking for and be open to a revelation with something that is way different.  I recently sold a work I called "Be the Tree."  I feel gratified when I envision that that work has meaning for another.  Maybe there was a revelation involved.  Art is a powerful medium uniting the unique world of artist with the unique world of those who get it and choose it.

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