How can the viewer begin to understand the meaning of artworks? This presentation gives some insight into how the viewer can depend on certain criteria for help in deriving meaning connected to visual art.
Form & Content
• Form= visual, art elements, principles of art
• Content= interpretation of themes, messages
• Subject Matter
• Meaning can be derived from the formal
• Use the following artwork and your reading.
1. Determine the media: materials used and how it
2. Describe who the artist might be.
3. Induce possible themes using 1 & 2 (content)
4. Induce possible meanings using 1-3 (content)
• Janine Antoni
six hundred pounds of chocolate before biting
six hundred pounds of lard before biting
Task: Determining the Content
• Make a list of words that you associate with
• From these words make a map that will help
you find content and subtext.
• Put Gnaw in context.
• What are the possible external conditions that
may surround this work of art?
• Include the context on the same page as your
• Visual METAPHOR-image or element that is
descriptive of something else.
• SYMBOL-image or element that stands for or
represents some other entity or concept.
• ICONOGRAPHY-system of symbols that allows
artists to refer to complex ideas.
• Is there any METAPHOR, SYMBOL or
ICONOGRAPHY present in Gnaw?
• Gnaw is about eating
• Artist Using teeth as a tool, biting chocolate
and biting lard
• Evidence of the body creating the sculpture
• Women and body image
• Primal urge of biting, eating
What does the Artist Say?
• “Chewing on the lard wasn't a pleasant experience,
but I'm really interested in the viewer empathizing
with my process and I feel that somewhere in your
body you can imagine what it's like to chew on 600
pounds of chocolate or chew on lard, and I'm very
aware of the kind of visceral response you have to
that. And I'm really trying to play those up against
each other and then have you walk in this display
and be seduced by these objects. But with the
memory of where the came from.” –Janine Antoni,
artist of Gnaw.
Writings about Art
• Art critics, art historians, museum curators
• Writing helps develop ideas about art.
• Content is not fixed, rather is reevaluated over
• Contradictory and opposing viewpoints over one
• “based on your own ideas, personal
tastes, experiences, and history…
emotional response…”, p.102 Meaning
• An artwork is a form of communication
between the artist and the viewer.
• Knowing the context can help to understand a
work of art and the meaning behind it.
• Some artists want to give you all of the
information, while others want the viewer to
really think about what they are experiencing.
• Sometimes writing, research, the internet can
aid in understanding or changing the way we
think about an art piece.