The Pentacle Queen wrote:
I don't like definitions of art, nor do i really think they are either needed or possible, however, I would say that art makes available new ways of constituting our sense of reality; intelligence/thought liberated from the logical constraints of argument.
Providing the above is true, then how does art theory 'help' art, specifically with regards to interpretation?
But the above statement isn't true. One can't assign a personally arbitrary meaning to a work of art just because it feeds into anyone particular irrational delusion. Example: One can't make up the notion that the cave paintings in Lascaux, France were created out of reaction to Matisse's Fauvist paintings. That would be an insane lack of understanding of art history.
I tend to believe that a particular work of art can only be defined by the artist him or herself. Everything else is merely speculation. Some speculation is more educated and founded in fact then in other works of art theory.
If Georgia O'Keefe says her paintings are metaphorical depictions of the female sex organs then I tend to take her side over some art historian who has a political/social/cultural agenda he or she has to shackle upon the flower paintings of Georgia O'Keefe in order to prove his or her own point.
If the artist hasn't given us a reasonable or coherent meaning behind his or her work then the job of the art historian is to attempt to solve the mystery of said work. But keeping in mind it may be simply an academic exercise that just might never be solved. I have no problem with that.
I didn't say that one could assign any meaning to any artwork, but one can contort a set of abstract phenomena into any number of different interpretations which 'close the (illogical) gaps' with a logical form of argument. One surely can't argue that cave paintings were influenced by fauvism, but that's because in that case, there is a 'benchmark' to judge that 'interpretation' against - what we know from history.
I don't know whether I agree with you about the artist knowing about their own works. I don't think artists always, actually, completely know what they are doing, when they do then they don't always 'talk sense' of their own works. Also, it is possible for works to carry more meaning than they themselves realise, arising from sets of relationships within the work they might not have noticed with another might.
I think the best way to view what an artist says as a very 'rich' lens through which to view the work, but certainly not the only lens. But then, I also have a problem with the other side of the spectrum, too, as above... I think my main problem with academia in relation to art is that all to often it seeks to solidify. The interpretation is often presented not as a 'a' lens, but as 'THE" lens through which to view the work, which i feel often makes meaning two dimensional, (either in terms of 'this is good because it influenced this' or, 'this part here expresses this issue within the artist's life' or even just 'this part here definitely symbolises/evokes this concept here and not this other one'') and I think is antithetical to the manner in which a lot of artworks work, which is through quite nebulous evocation, and the way art is actually enjoyed.