Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Creating Meaning

I have had several conversations with colleagues recently about creating meaning in one's art. It seems such a basic need we have as humans - to create something with meaning. I remember a conversation I had after participating in a professional development program for artists. Many of the participants' work had a strong political or social message. I said something to the effect that my work isn't "important" or "meaningful" because I typically do not create work with a political or social message. My friend vehemently disagreed with my view that my work was not meaningful or important.

When I create my work, I do work with intention and each piece does have a deeper meaning than may be apparent on the surface. My objective is often to create a feeling on the part of the observer, rather than to be a catalyst for thought. I have considered the reality that most people who view my work have no idea of my intention or the meaning I give to the work. Some people will be drawn to my work, and they may not even know why. Maybe they sense the meaning behind it, or maybe they give it their own meaning. And maybe that's even more important - each person finds what they need in it.


  1. Hello Lisa. I was introduced to your work by a mutual friend and I enjoy your art (and now your blog) a great deal. I'm a writer, and I find in my practice the same kind thing you describe here. When I write, my intent is to relate observations of mundane events and how elegantly they seem to connect within the web of life. Many times a reader will share with me a completely different perspective or find some meaning that totally takes me by surprise. It used to bother me; I worried that I was a poor writer incapable of conveying my ideas effectively. I thought that my work wasn't meaningful if the reader didn't "get" my meaning.

    Then I stopped worrying; I still try to skillfully convey an idea, but I write for the creative release it offers me and if readers miss my meaning and find something else...well so be it. And now that I no longer obsess over my lack of skill I find that the various perspectives readers share give me new insights and I am learning to see things through their eyes. It is a revelation to have my own words reflect back to me something I never saw in them before. My readers teach me to see a bigger picture, with many more connections than my own limited experience can perceive. So now I consider writing an interactive learning experience. I don't know if it enhances the work I produce as far as my readers are concerned, although I hope it does, but I consider each new perspective a gift from them, to me. I hope you find this in your work too.

  2. I enjoyed your comments, Ratava. I found it interesting to think that even with the written word, people still interpret things differently than the author intended. It makes me think of some studies that indicate that we often don't really give all our attention to what we read or hear. We latch onto a few bits of it and give it meaning based on our experiences, values and biases. I commend you for getting beyond the self-blame (not conveying your thoughts clearly enough) and looking at this phenomenon as an opportunity to broaden your own perspective. I definitely find this is true in teaching. I learn as much from my students as they learn from me.


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