Often viewers of art say that there are many ways to interpret the art. Some look for symbolism, while others look at it with only a fleeting, surface interest. You may even have a few more attempting to critique what they see as though they were art critics writing for a publication when they are not. It begs the question--is there a right way to view art? How should one interpret what they are looking at, if it should be interpreted at all? What about the artist's view of his or her own work? The answers to these important questions, along with the correct way to view art and why it matters, follows.
View Art for the Sake of Viewing It
Much of the art in the world exists for the sake of creating it, viewing it and enjoying it. It really does not have to mean anything, except what it means to the artist and to the people who buy it. If you have to know what a piece means, you are no longer looking at it just for pleasure, and you are telling others that you need context for what you are viewing. Ergo, the piece loses any meaning it might have had for you on a personal level, and then it really does not mean anything to you at all, no matter what someone else says it means.
However, if you want to know what a piece of art means to the artist him/herself, and you have the opportunity to ask, you should. The stories behind the creation of art pieces, such as Thomas Arvid's art that includes several wine bottles and half-drunk glasses, may prove to be very entertaining. Just make sure that before you view Thomas Arvid art for sale at a gallery opening and ask the artist some questions that you have already established, in your own mind, what a piece means to you first so that this personal meaning is unaltered by what you learn from the artist.
Do Not Try to Interpret It
Unless you are a paid art critic, it is best to leave interpretations up to the critics. Trying to interpret art is like trying to define new words that are added to the English language; you may get the definition right once in a while, but most of the time you may completely miss the accurate meaning. (Even art critics have their foibles, and they do this kind of thing professionally.) Instead, you should view the art, decide whether or not you like the works you see, and then reason out why you like them. Then the art becomes more personal to you, and that is what many artists are trying to do. They may paint or create art for themselves, but they also paint and create as a means of nonverbal expression to others, and that is how you should view art.