Does My Art Need to Have Meaning?

Many artists wonder whether their art has to have “deep meaning” to be valid.

Does art have to have a meaningful message in order to be art, or can art be a purely visual experience for the artist and viewer?

43 min. video

Who determines what art needs to have, the artist, the audience, both? Discussion led by Art Prof Clara Lieu and Teaching Artists Cat Huang and Lauryn Welch.

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Video Walkthrough

  • Ask yourself why you are making the images in your art.
  • Write down the “whys” for your art.
  • What do you want to talk about as an artist?
  • Is there something specific you want to communicate through your art?
  • Who are you making your art for?
  • Is your art just for yourself, or for a larger audience or group?
  • Do you want to make art that which speaks from your personal narrative, or from a broader point of view?
  • Sometimes the meaning behind your artwork can emerge as it develops.
  • The meaning can take a really long time to appear!
  • Ideas take time to marinate and develop, be patient with the process.
  • How do I know if what I’m making is “enough” as an artist?
  • Is it “okay” if I want to make images that are about being visually pleasing?
  • Some projects begin with a meaning you have figured out in advance.

Prof Lieu’s Tips

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I’ve had projects where I did nothing but brainstorming for a good 6 months. It takes the pressure off needing to execute finished pieces, and I really do think working out ideas requires a lot of “marination.”

Brainstorming for Artists
Multi-Color Linoleum Printmaking

I can’t brainstorm continuously for 3 hours, I would go nuts! So for me, little spurts, and with lots of marination time is the most effective.

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