Art and the Mystery of Personal Taste / by Jeannine Cook

I am always fascinated by the mysterious forces that impel each of us to make choices, in all sorts of realms, but especially in music and visual arts. For instance, you arrive as a visitor in a new city, and in deciding what to do and what to see, there is frequently the choice first of which museum to visit, and then, within that museum, which type of art to see. It is often an easy series of decisions if you are used to doing it, but even then, the way one chooses is often a subliminal, almost instinctive affair.

Experience helps. The more one visits museums and other places where art, two or three-dimensional, is displayed, the more one refines one's choices. The decisions often boil down to seeking to widen one's knowledge or wanting to see types of art which are already generally known and appreciated. I personally find that I will always head for an exhibition of drawings, if possible, because I am utterly enthralled by the directness of the dialogue with an artist who uses a drawing medium. There is nowhere to hide when you draw - you show yourself as an artist, warts and all, particularly when you are using a medium like silverpoint which precludes any erasures. Most drawing media - graphite, charcoal, ink, silverpoint, etc. - allow a subtlety of expression and depiction that one seldom finds in painting. There is also a wonderful expansion of the definition of drawing today, with many novel uses of paper, media, even attitude. The result is a continuous challenge to any preconceived notions of what one personally likes or even defines in terms of draughtsmanship.

Yesterday I was marvelling at the mysterious delights of personal taste in music as well. It was during another of the wonderful Savannah Music Festival concerts, the second in the Sensations series of chamber music recitals held in the acoustic delight of the Telfair Museum of Art's main gallery. The programme was again the result of skilled personal tastes in selecting the concert's music and then my personal choice of that particular performance versus another being offered last night. Violinist Daniel Hope , violist Philip Dukes , pianist Gabriel Montero and friends played Dvorak's Piano Quartet in E-flat Major,Opus 87, in the first half of the concert. Brahms' String Sextet No. 2 in G Major Opus 36 was played after the intermission. Both pieces were ineffably beautiful and wonderfully played. I personally preferred - if one could prefer one or the other in truth - the Dvorak because I loved the lilting melodies that he had incorporated from Bohemian folk songs and the wonderful subtle treatment of strings and piano dialogues. Yet all around me, I heard differing opinions - some loved the first piece, others preferred the Brahms. As in art, every person brought their own experiences to the choice of music.

In the end, it is a miracle that so many of us like the same music, the same art. It underlines that there are universal attributes to works of art that resonate with most people, often subtle, mysterious attributes, but nonetheless very powerful ones.