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Mary: It seems to me that the support for the negative position in your
debate lies in the phrasing - that is, the statement itself proves the
negative. If the artist "intended no meaning" then any meaning derived is
not IN the artwork but IN THE VIEWER. Now it could be argued that great art
inspires just this sort of projection on the part of the
viewer/reader/listener. Even if meaning IS intended, it will be filtered by
the personality of the receiver. As Larry Rivers said, "Any art
communicates what you are in the mood to receive." But we must, I think, be
careful to understand when WE are "creating" the meaning and ascribing it to
the artist. For instance, when I read "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy, I
"perceived" all sorts of allusions to World War II, but Tolkein repeatedly
denied any such intent. (Now, I could argue that he "subconsciously"
included such symbolism, but that would be a little arrogant on my part.)
What about John Denver's "Rocky Mountain High" which was banned from some
radio stations because people "heard" a pro-drug message in it. While I
believe it is perfectly fine to "see" things in a work of art which were not
intended, we must be careful not to ascribe such intentions to the creator.
In many cases, we do not find meaning IN the art, but rather as a RESULT OF
VIEWING the art. The art may serve as a catalyst for us to discover
something within ourselves, and that's great, but the negative side still
wins the debate.
The "reproduction versus original" debate is fun, too - but harder to
resolve. It could even be argued that one might have a richer experience
with the reproduction! What if the colors are "off" on the reproduction (as
they usually are) and you have a greater affinity for the bogus colors? The
only answer to this dilemma, it seems to me, is to see both the reproduction
and the original side by side. My guess is that, in the vast majority of
cases, the original will far outshine the copy, but I'm not sure that the
case can be definitively argued pro or con except in certain cases which
have been previously cited (2-D repros of 3-D pieces, heavily textured
works, etc.) Good luck!