Have you ever heard Henryk Gorecki’s Symphony No. 3, also known as the Symphony of Sorrowful Songs? Or have you listened to Edvard Grieg’s Wedding Day at Troldhaugen?
These two compositions could not be more different in instrumentation, tempo, or texture. But most notably, these two pieces elicit very different emotions: the first one is somber, the second one joyful.
Not only are we moved by music, but we also respond to poetry or a theater performance.
In context of visual art, we often connect with a piece of art on an emotional level first, and then later analyze it intellectually. Whether we like or dislike an art piece is not only a matter of colors or composition, in most instances, it is a feeling or a memory that is triggered by the art.
The landscape in a photograph reminds us of a vacation, the painted still life is reminiscent of a table set at the grandparents’ home, the portrait of a ballerina takes us back to our child’s first dance recital. Even abstract art brings back memories and emotions, such as the color of the light at sunset or the mood of the clouds during a thunderstorm.
Some art addresses social injustice, political discourse or environmental activism and it makes us uncomfortable, upsets us, and sparks a thought process as the artwork appeals to our values.
In some cases, the artist explains the message she wants to share with the viewer and because we want to hold on to that message, we bring the art piece home.
Sometimes it’s not only the art itself which excites us, but the circumstances under which we saw or acquired a piece of art. I have bought art not only because I like the art itself, but because I formed a relationship with the artist over time, and I want to express my support of them. My husband and I commissioned a piece of art to celebrate our 15th wedding anniversary. Although I see “Sunburst” every day, it never fails to remind me that our life is filled with love and light.
As artist I occasionally capture someone else’s experience in fiber: after a business trip to the Philippines, I converted one of my husband’s photographs into an art quilt. Now “Life Goes on: Corregidor Island” is a cherished memory as the piece decorates his office.
Similarly, each little artwork in my home has its own story. It might be a personal connection, a reminder of a sweet memory or a testimony of happiness. Each piece is special to me and they all brighten my day and lift my spirits.
Years after seeing the artwork for the first time and forming an instant emotional connection with it, the deep feeling of joy is still there.
No doubt, the artwork touched me.
How do you connect with art? Does art touch you?