Years ago I was on my way to an assignment when I saw a horse in a pasture among the rolling hills along Highway 26 east of Linden. It was back in the days when we shot black and white film, and what drew me to the scene was the horse’s white coat contrasting against the darker tones of the wild spring grasses and deep blue sky. I walked up to the fence and began shooting, and the horse’s curiosity brought him closer to me. Soon he was nearly at the fence. He was so close that I would have had to back up to get the whole horse in the frame, but then I saw through the camera how the his haunches and the sway of his back gracefully complimented the gentle arc of a hill in the background. With the horse’s head cropped out of the frame I shot that picture and others, then continued on my way to the assignment. I printed the photo and liked how I captured on film what I saw through the camera. To me it was an exercise in form, line and tone. I liked it so much that I framed it and hung on a wall in my home.
A little while later at a gathering at my home, my brother-in-law said that he liked the photo, too, but had a different reason for doing so. He said that seeing the horse’s muscles defined in the photo, it gave him the impression of strength and power. It was something I hadn’t seen before, and it certainly wasn’t why I took the picture. I’m glad he liked the photo and was impressed that he saw something in it that I hadn’t.
At that same gathering, my mother-in-law quietly turned to my wife and said to her: “Does he know that he cut the horse’s head off?”
Such is the subjectivity of art. Each and every one of us brings our own bias and viewpoint to each and every piece of art. Some of it may move us in sublime ways on intellectual and emotional levels. Others may just leave us scratching our heads, while yet others may insult our artistic sensibilities. But the common thread is that they all should make us think and feel something.
I like to frame my pictures behind glass. It forces the viewer to do a subtle bob and weave to see the image amongst the reflections off of the shiny surface, sometimes their own reflections. To me it helps to involve them, make them a little more of an active participant of the process of art.
A finished art piece isn’t just an artist’s statement; whether you like the work or not, it should be the beginning of a conversation.