When silence is the better path... / by Jeannine Cook

In the dialogue between artist and the public about work created, there is often a time when silence is preferable. There was a perfect example of this premise this morning during a NPR Weekend Edition interview Scott Simon did with Israeli composer, Avner Dorman (www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php). Mr. Dorman was talking about his compositions and how he reacts when they are played by individual musicians and/or orchestras. Whilst orchestras are usually very structured in their interpretation of the music, thanks to the conductor, he remarked that he frequently stays silent when soloists begin working with his compositions. He finds that often these musicians find other aspects in his work he had not been aware of (thanks to their own life experiences), and consequently, he does not intervene to talk to them of his music until late in the process. He referred to his compositions as "living organisms", with their own independent life.

In the same way, visual art has an independent life and should be able to survive on its own, to have a dialogue with each viewer that is meaningful. In fact, many artists find it invidious that artists' statements are so often requested to accompany paintings, drawings or other media before an exhibition. The work should, ideally, be able to stand alone, allowing a dialogue with viewers that is not guided by the artist. In other words, again, silence could often be ideal. Perhaps lack of confidence on the part of many in the viewing public about what to think and what to look at or for in visual art contributes to the need for an explanatory guide to understanding the art. However, learning to trust one's inner voice or instincts is a wonderful addition to enjoying art, music and so many other things in life. It is part of defining oneself as a human being, just as the artist, in creating the work, had to remain true to his or her artistic identity.