Lately I've had a lot of questions about specific pieces of art. What do I think? Is this or that piece "good." While I'm glad people think my opinion has some merit, what I generally ask in return is "What do YOU think?" That is really all that matters.
Sure I can tell you that technically this piece is brilliant or a mess. Or that this artist did or did not seem to know his or her intention when creating a piece. Or that the reason you are probably asking me is that you prefer a lot of differentiation in values in color/light, when this artist liked everything to have a similar color/light value. But what really matters is what you the viewer think. Do YOU like it? Yes or No?
I know in art history class we were always told there are many many layers to any piece of art. That the artist was making a statement about his or her political era, his or her religious beliefs, etc. While I don't want to diss our great high school and college teachers, art isn't always that layered, that symbolic, that - dare I say it - deep. And even if it is, I think most artists would rather you enjoyed their work, or had an opinion about their work, than to not enter the game at all because you are afraid to miss what the artist intended.
To me this is the great thing about art. After I finish putting paint on canvas, it doesn't really matter what my intention was. What matters to you the viewer is what YOU think. How it resonates with YOU. That doesn't mean you can't pick out my intention, my emotions while painting the piece, or evaluate my technical abilities. But bottom line, either a piece of art resonates with a viewer or it doesn't. (And if it doesn't resonate with a viewer, it doesn't mean it's a "bad"piece of art, it just means that it doesn't resonate with that person.)
I was reminded of this concept again today, when looking over my portfolio. This piece is called The Seduction. When I painted it, I meant for it to be about a girl being seduced by a slightly older boy on the cusp on manhood. I meant for it to be innocent and tender. When a girlfriend of mine saw the finished piece she disagreed and said that this was a painting for an older woman seducing a younger man. I see what she means, but that's not what I intended the painting to be. However, at the end of the day, it doesn't really matter what I the artist thinks, even though I painted it. It matters what you the viewer See, Think and Feel when you see it.
So next time you really don't like a very expensive piece of art on the wall, or you really love an inexpensive piece of art - don't worry about it. Embrace that opinion, because it's yours. And in the end, that's all that really matters.