Exploring a Work of Art

Exploring a Work of Art


In our Post-Modern world, where Truth and absolutes are elusive and subject to debate, analyzing art may lead us to no particular “right” or “wrong” interpretation and judgment, but the process and results can be judged—and graded—in terms of depth and consistency.  Be sure to support your conclusions in terms of what you see in your chosen artwork.


Research, explore, and discuss a work of “art.”  From the Readings you should have a pretty good idea that “art” may not be limited to paintings, drawings, and sculpture (depending on your personal definition for “art”).  Based on the interpretational structure provided in this course, you will interpret the work, explain its “meanings,” and address its nature / role(s) as “art.”

What does the artwork mean as a POE in the world and in the lives of people?  As you write, be sure to always explain Why / How (don’t just list ideas).



Based on your beliefs / conclusions about what you would include in the category “art” choose a work of “art” to examine / explore.


Consider what might be important for the interpretation you are developing:


Visual Design

Visual tactics and strategies

Image Styles (remember: they are not categories to plug your work into, but ideas to raise questions)

The work’s History

You, the work’s Maker(s)–or others involved with it–in terms of…





•Intelligences (note that this includes many aspects: from your physical body-in-the-world to your knowledge, beliefs, values; see Gardner’s Intelligence Domains)

•Needs (Maslow-related)

•Social Motives (from the Reading; this may include dreams, desires, interests, intentions…)



As you develop your analysis of the artwork in your paper, be sure to include relevant aspects of the above.  You want to develop as complete an interpretation as possible (and demonstrate familiarity with and ability to use ideas from the course).  Specific application of ideas from the Midterm will vary from person to person, and you do not need to include all of the above.



Step 2 Research the work (7 Points):

Find out what the “experts” have to say about it, whether it’s a Renaissance painting or a contemporary toy.  [Be sure to tell me what the work is and who created it, include an image, provide a link—in some way let me know what you are discussing.]




Use at least 3 reference sources of interpretations and analyses outside required course readings.

—Include all References, in the paper or listed at the end.

NOTE:  If no references exist for your specific chosen work, you may reference similar works (i.e. similar kinds of POEs) or works by the same person, include interviews (e.g. if you chose a work on display in a local gallery, store, museum, etc., you might interview the owner, employee, volunteer, et al.), and perhaps other possibilities.  The point is to get 3 points of view that are not based on your own opinion / thoughts.  References may include anything from academic journals to blogs and product reviews – it depends on the choice of POE.

Be sure to consult with instructor if unsure how to proceed.



Step 3 “art/Art”(12 Points):

Based on the Readings and Exercise #4 concerning the nature and purposes of “art,” explain why / how the work you have chosen to write about qualifies as a work of art from your perspective and beliefs.  [E.g. if your “definition” of “art” requires creativity, skill, some kind of emotional response in the viewer, or that the POE be “beautiful/decorative,” or should “challenge” viewers…how does your chosen work demonstrate it?  If creativity and skill, for e.g., are significant, be sure to reference related Readings.]

Identify:  Based on our “Categories of Visual Arts” what category(-ies) does your chosen POE belong to?  Explain why and how it belongs in that category(-ies).

What role does, or should, or could it play in your life?  In your society / culture?

Examine, explain how/why your perspective and beliefs might align with the requirements of one Philosophical  System  (See the “Philosophical Systems” folder)

AND how/why it your view does not align with a second System.


Also include:

What Purpose(s) does your chosen work fulfill?  (See: “Purposes for Designed Images and Objects” in the “art/Art” folder)

Explain why / why not?  Use specific references to the Reading.



Aesthetic Systems:  You will use two Systems in relation to your chosen POE  (See the “Aesthetic Systems” sub-folder in the Contexts and Histories folder).  Use specific references to Readings.

Examine, explain how/why your chosen work might meet the requirements of one Aesthetic System

AND how/why it might not fit into a second System.


Step 4 Interpretational Perspectives (12 Points):

Minimum 4 Perspectives required:

A. Socio-cultural

B. Symbolic, and

C. at least two other Perspectives of your choice.

Be sure not to repeat the Socio-cultural or Symbolic.


A.  Socio-Cultural

Consider your chosen artwork as a cultural object (see the Sociocultural Interpretational Perspective in the Interpretational Perspectives document, Contexts and Histories folder).  What cultural systems or functions might the work play a role in?  What roles might it play?  What kinds of “culture” might it be involved with (be sure to address/include Bodley’s The Idea of Culture in Sociocultural)?  What might it mean in its cultural context(s)?

In other words:  the artwork is one small piece of a much larger cultural story (of its origin, its present, its future).  What role(s) does it play in that story?


B.  Symbolic

Assume the work has symbolic meanings.  Try “reading” it from the view of at least TWO Symbolic Systems.  [See the Symbolic Systems Readings.]  Your symbolic interpretation does not need to be “true,” only plausible (convince me to “buy it”).

You will probably need to browse the Readings to find systems that apply to your POE.  Given the wide range of possible choices for this assignment, a range of Systems are provided.



C.  Analyze / interpret the artwork from the point of view of at least two additional Interpretational Perspectives of your choice (e.g. Environmental, Gender, etc.).



Step 5 Judgments and Conclusions (4 Points):

After reading what the experts have to say, and exploring the artwork in terms of beliefs about art, as a cultural object (in cultural contexts), prodding it for symbolic meanings, considering it in terms of Styles, Strategies, You and its Maker, and so on…what have you concluded about the POE?  What does it “really” mean?  What is the “bottom line” of your story about this work as a POE in the world and in people’s lives?


–Do you agree with the “experts” or have you found other stories / meanings?  Why / why not?

–Did you encounter any surprises along the way?  Explain (including if the answer is “No.”).

–Is it a “good” or “successful” work?  Is it well designed?  (Include references to:  “Good and Bad:  Judging Design” in the Elements and Principles of Design document).

–Is it an important or significant work in any way (today; in the past)?  Or is it unimportant /       insignificant?  Why / how / in what way(s)?

–In retrospect is it actually a work of art from your personal view (e.g. could it qualify asart from a cultural view, yet fail to qualify as art from your own perspective, or vice versa)?  Why / why not?

–Any other thoughts to conclude your story about the work and its role(s), purpose(s), meaning(s)?




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