If a tree falls in the woods, does it make any noise if no one is there to hear it? It probably does, but how can we know? We can’t be absolutely sure, can we?
Science tells us that in order for there to be a rainbow, there must necessarily be three components: mist, light, and someone lined up at just the right height and angle to perceive it. If any of the three is missing there is no rainbow.
So what about art?
What the viewer brings to art is what makes the experience unique for every viewer. This is why we can go back to the same museums and look at the same paintings and sculptures year after year and always have an enlightening experience. It’s not just that we are looking at great art. In-between visits we change and end up bringing a whole new and evolved version of us along to interact in a new way.
As artists, we often mistakenly think our art is about us. Of course
it comes from us, and is probably about something we care deeply
about. But at some point it leaves our studio and is out of our hands,
and is simply out of our control — at which point the work becomes all
about the viewer.
What the viewer brings to a piece of art is what allows that art to
live on beyond the walls of our studios. I heard it said that even
non-representational art is figurative when we consider that the
viewer actually becomes the figure in the art when we look, feel, and engage with it.
A large part of an artist’s job is to provide a new lens for viewers
to see their world through. We are metaphorically spraying a watery
mist in front of the light source in such a way that whoever comes to
experience our art will see things that we probably never saw in it.
Connecting with the art in this way may even alter their relationship
with the world around them for some time.
Regardless of what artists have in mind, or what their chosen subject
is, and no matter what the artist’s statement says, art ultimately is
about the viewer.
As long as people continue to be like snowflakes, then our
relationship with nature, each other, or whatever, will eternally be a
blizzard of unique and wonderful interactions.