Invisible Voices

a voice for the voiceless

the power of ambiguity

I live near the Smithsonians, which are all free. Or, at least, they are paid for with all of our tax dollars, so I do my best to make use of that. I wonder what percentage of our annual taxes go towards the smithsonians? It would be interesting to find out what was, essentially, our annual membership dues! But we call it free, since there is no individual admission charge.

I like that it is “free” because to go through even one of the museums would be a giant undertaking. They are all huge, and there are lots of them. I end up going through for just an hour here and there, or however long my brain will hold out. There are a few paintings in the National Gallery of Art that I stop in to see pretty much every time I visit, even if I spend most of my time in other parts of the gallery.

There is one, a Manet, that keeps me coming back. It is so ambiguous. It seems impossible that the painter wasn’t making a statement of some kind, his choice of subject is a statement of its own, isn’t it? What he chose to paint, and what he chose to leave out, fascinate me. I think it is a sort of moral optical illusion. We bring to the viewing of the painting our own contexts, perspectives, beliefs, and all of that changes how we perceive the painting, and its message.

I can’t claim this is a great picture, but hopefully it does the job. Click on the picture for a bigger version.

manet - dead matador

I think that art is powerful, and has immense potential in communicating a message. It has to always be understood that the message received can’t be controlled, filtered as it will be through each individual’s life experiences, expectations, perceptions. I showed a picture of a happy grinning sanctuary pig to someone once and they said “he looks so happy to be bacon!”

I’m coming to believe that art carries a more powerful message when it is ambiguous, at least for the few who will stop to think and consider.

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