Interpretation and Misinterpretation at Art Basel Miami Beach

By: Waverley Chmura

The woven wires formed a shape on the partition – but I couldn’t figure it out. I was too close. Step by step I walked away until a skull in a fetal position emerged and the less dense wires began to resemble an embryonic wall. Wires..skeleton in fetal position…and a placard that read Mother and Child II. I mused, was this piece about abortion? At this point my friend Daedrian had made contact with the gallery assistant and was requesting additional information on the piece (a word of advice for new and seasoned art viewers alike: always ask for more information). Apparently the piece was inspired by archeological finds, not the highly controversial hot topic I was uncomfortable to feel like I stumbled upon.

There is a fine line between interpretation and misinterpretation of art because art is something that is equal parts creation and perception. Succinctly summarized, my advice on understanding art would be to consider alternate interpretations.

Art is the brain-child of an artist. It is brought forth as a result of conception and then nurtured until maturation at which point the creation is in itself a reality separate from its creator. The artist’s body of works, creative process, biographical information, and social context are all useful information when it comes to interpreting art, as are the more pertinent 5 W’s (Who? What? When? Where? Why?) of the piece. Attaining details on what inspired the creation of the piece is also informative. But all this information put together does not constitute the ‘truth’ of any given piece of art. At best, it is a point of departure. Original interpretation (that which is conceived by the artist) and alternate interpretations (any interpretation after that) are not at odds, they just add to the richness of the piece. The beautiful and intriguing Mona Lisa stands as evidence to this point.

So what is the meaning behind Mother and Child II? Who knows. There are convincing arguments to be made for both interpretations. So art novices and connoisseurs alike, don’t hesitate to connect the dots at Art Basel Miami Beach this year. And feel free to share your thoughts with your friends. Regardless of what you come up with, art is equally well appreciated in quiet contemplation or in a lively discussion with others.

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