It is the triangle which connects the art, the artist, and the viewer which has captured my attention today. When a realistic subject in the form of a person or persons is added to the mix, that alters the dynamics, and what John Dewey refers to as "the experience" as well.
Viewing art as experience, rather than as a passive encounter, appeals to me, of course, since I am an artist. Like most artists, however, I look at a lot of art and am intrigued with the impact on my senses. In some ways, I equate the viewing of an art object with the reading a piece of literature. I don't just look at a book--I take it in and make it part of my thoughts. It no longer exists only outside me, but is integrated into my consciousness.
Dewey explains the importance of this process because it mirrors the way humans interact with everything they encounter in what we refer to as reality. Some of us go through life barely engaging with our surroundings, while others analyze, deconstruct, synthesize, create, mimic, etc... Dewey values these aesthetic experiences as a normal part of living and sees these realizations as being an important ingredient of happiness. He notes that the aesthetic experience involves the passing from "disturbance to harmony," and is one of man's most intense and satisfying experiences and refers to art as "the greatest intellectual achievement in the history of humanity. I am inclined to agree.
An artist's work requires reflection. To paraphrase Dewey, the expressive object should not be seen in isolation from the process that produced it, nor from the individuality of vision from which it came. It is not enough to simply and spontaneously make a thing. Art requires activity and reflection.