I don’t love every artwork that is displayed at the Gallery. Perhaps as the Educator, I shouldn’t admit that, but I just did.
Art is such a personal thing; what one person hates, another will love. That is one of the great things about shared experiences at an art gallery. You can learn a bit more about the person you are with, you can share ideas, feelings and reactions, you can gain a new perspective, and you can look at some amazing art. I feel very strongly about first impressions, gut reactions, and that vague sense one has when confronted with something new. It’s not that these feelings are always right, but they establish a really good place to start a conversation about art. Sometimes an opinion remains fixed, but sometimes it changes or grows, depending on how new ideas fit within a person’s own vision of art.
An important part of my job is to share information about the art on display – to train docents (aka tour guides) and studio staff, to develop interpretive resources, and to lead tours. It is often necessary for me to suspend my own opinions (especially when I don’t like the artwork) in order to gather and share information. Everyone who visits the Gallery should be able to form their own opinions, without the fear that they will be clouded by mine. I gather information about the artist, the materials and techniques used, the historical context, and the messages the artist is hoping to convey.
I listen to our curators and artists talk about the works. I spend time seeing the individual works on display in the exhibition spaces and take note of how they function together and on their own. I talk about the work with other staff, volunteers and visitors. I tour the exhibitions a few times.
Then a funny thing happens: that artwork that I didn’t like becomes one that I do. Maybe it’s a new understanding of what the work is all about, or maybe it’s just familiarity; either way, my perspective has changed just a little, and I have a new object that I like.
Learning more about art has the potential to enrich each visitor’s understanding of their own ideas and opinions. The AGH offers a variety of tours of its exhibitions to help facilitate this: Tour Days on Saturdays, Sundays, and Wednesdays special monthly, and group tours for anyone who wants to come with friends or colleagues. Take the time to learn a little bit more, and to push yourself beyond your initial impressions. You’ll be glad you did.