George and I met at an artists’ get-together held by art dealer Molly Barnes at the Roger Smith Hotel in New York City sixteen years ago. George and I became quick friends. Over the next few years we visited each other’s studios and enjoyed encouraging one another. At that time, George was a much more established artist than I, and a teacher at the prestigious Art Students League, so I would listen closely to what he had to say.
One evening he shared how his new student’s were often intimidated by art. He explained that the reasons most people are intimidated is because they think they must understand art intellectually before they can appreciate it. Or they think they need to learn a lot more about art before ever setting foot in a gallery or museum. And trying to learn more about art can be intimidating in itself. Even art reviews tend to be more pretentious then inviting. So what’s the solution? George put it simply, "The idea that you must be sophisticated or knowledgeable to appreciate fine art is erroneous."
The way to enjoy art like a pro is simple: you don’t have to be a pro to enjoy art. Matter of fact, the less you know the better your experience. This all may seem like B.S. since it’s contrary to what you may believe, but it should come as a relief. The only thing necessary for you to do to enjoy art is to bring yourself to an art exhibit, and let the artwork do the rest. Forget what you’ve read, forget all your preconceived ideas, and just allow yourself to respond to the art on display. Trust me, it works.
What will happen? You'll enjoy your own interpretation. Maybe the artwork will awaken a long forgotten memory. Or a strong emotional feeling will wash over you. A movie may begin to play in your head starring the characters portrayed in a scene painted by an artist. There could be a strong attraction to shapes and colors that you can’t quite explain and find fascinating. You might even become inspired to try something new when you leave, or have the overwhelming compulsion to call up a friend to share what an incredible time you had. The great fact is, when we allow ourselves to experience art without the burden of anyone else’s opinion, including our own, we feel like we've been a good friend to ourselves.
Hopefully this gives you the confidence to step boldly into an art exhibit any time you have the desire to do so. You can think of it like going to the theatre, only instead of having actors on stage working to entertain you, you can allow the art to awaken a surprising response.
What about George? Sadly George passed away unexpectedly in 2002, but every time I enjoy myself at an exhibit I think of George with a smile and say to myself, “Thanks, George.”