The Mirror Business

My ears are  worn with a phrase that I have heard too many times: "I want the viewer to interpret my work however s/he wants." I would argue that any time you look at a work of art you are seeing it through the lens of your own experience. Even the maker cannot manipulate your memories and control what you see. But the artist is still responsible for the work; the artist is not in the mirror business.

It is up to the artist to start with a vision, an intention, a reason, and then to make it tangible for others, to provide the hook, the way in. 

I could put two random objects together and give it a title, but the viewer probably wouldn't stick around very long to ponder the work's deep meaning or to feel much of anything. That would still better than framing a mirror and saying "This work is about you," or "This is about reflection." The mirror is only a mirror in those cases. Nothing has been transformed. 

The question I always ask is, "What Else?" What is the next level? What are the layers? Maybe the mirror is at the bottom of a garbage can; or on the bottom of a shoe; maybe the mirror is on a dinner plate; or broken in a basket covered with a napkin. Where is the work situated? In what context do we find it? These are all important questions. 

The viewer needs enough material to get started. But there has to be a reason to turn the key and start the imagination engine, to compel the viewer to engage with it. The reason starts with the artist. What must you share? Share it, in detail. Connect it to the concrete world. Now, go deeper.