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The inclusion of text is successful at encouraging rather than limiting a viewer’s interpretation of art and this is most evident in power of text, particularly narrative text. The inclusion of text does not hinder the meaning of the image, but encourages the viewer to think beyond what is presented, thus develop multiple interpretations—this is the power of narrative text that leads the viewer to create a relationship of identification or empathy with the subject matter and the artist. For these reasons, artists such as Aminah Brenda Lynn Robinson, Pat Ward Williams, and Elizabeth Catlett include text as a narrative tool within their artwork, allowing the viewer to connect more closely with the subject matter and the artist. The use of first person narrative allows the viewer to temporarily occupy the artist’s identity or the subject’s identity, where the viewer can then develop an intimate relationship with the artwork. When a viewer visits an art gallery, often the viewer skims through the painting, sculpture, mixed media, or photograph at hand. The visual content is quickly consumed. Hence, a piece of art is barely given time for interpretation or deconstruction of its meaning. Too often people come out of art galleries looking exhausted, as if they had walked through a store rather than an art showing. The viewer does not take the time to discern the content of the visual arts and thus, the art is left without or little critical assessment. However, aiding the visual with text can change the viewer’s perception or encourage multiple interpretations of the work. Text causes the viewer to stop, and pause to read around, under, or, above the image, which leads the viewer to further assess the image. When establishing a relationship between the text and the image, the viewer is using the mechanism of dual coding. Dual coding, a phrase coined by Allan Pavio, a psychologist of the theory of cognition, is the process in which our mind shifts back and forth between the writing system and the visual system. Incorporating narrative text within the artwork enables the viewer to exercise dual coding to construct a unique relationship of identification or empathy.
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