Artistic Expression Arts and 21st Century Learning Newsletter

Arts and Ambiguity

Images, movement, and sounds in works of art can be understood in more than one way. In fact, most artists know that appreciation and interpretation from multiple perspectives is an important characteristic of their work. Artists set the scene, so to speak, but don’t stipulate what another person must see or hear. Participating in the artistic process is incredibly powerful. It’s also powerful for the artist along with other viewers or listeners to step back and seek inherently personal and satisfying meaning from a work. Artworks thrive on this sort of ambiguity that, without distracting, multiplies potential meanings and invites interpretations and various perspectives.

Take advantage of the ambiguity in the world.
Look at something and think what else it might be.
~ Roger von Oech

Ambiguities in successful works of art emerge from the intuitive and often playful eye or ear of the observer. That experimentation with meaning adds richness to the work as a whole. We can do the same with the complexities in life. It’s obvious that the world is changing at an ever-increasing pace today. Change is a certainty and ambiguity is a part of our everyday experience.

A sculpture is three-dimensional and invites you to view it from multiple sides and angles. The famous David sculpture by Michelangelo has been viewed as a religious symbol, a political ideal, and a representation of strength. Appreciated today for its aesthetic beauty, the eyes, facial expression, bulging veins in the neck and hands, and position of the body can show multiple layers of meaning.
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