I went to the zoo the other day…. Its good to be in nature.
– Tony Soprano, from The Sopranos, 28 April 2002
We do not see the world exactly as it is. In the opening quotation to this page, Tony Soprano makes this point clear as he equates zoos with nature. Like Mr. Soprano, we see the world through the interpretive lens(es) of our personal experience and culturally borne presuppositions.
Art is a prime example. Never a neutral and objective depiction of reality, art is laden with meanings and values, something that is true whether we are looking at cave art, classical sculpture, photographic nudes, or commercial graphics. The trick, as in all interpretation, is to tease out the plurality of intentions, presuppositions, insights, resonances, and disjunctions that constitute the image as an object. This ‘polyvocality’ — the way an image (e.g. photograph) or object (e.g. sculpture) speaks; the meanings embedded in its production and reception; the social and natural contexts of its generation — exists for both the artist and the audience. Thus our ‘knowledge’ of art is best when it apprehends the meaning(s) of the artist, and the significance(s) it has for the audience.
My interpretations are not intended to be final or comprehensive. Rather they are points-of-departure for my ongoing reflections on what our relationship to the worlds of people, animals and nature ought to be. I hope these images (and brief, personal interpretations) will spark your own reflections.
Image: Lions of Chauvet Cave, circa 30,000 BP.