The meaning nebula

(photo of Orion Nebula, taken by the Hubble telescope, courtesy of NASA)

At the moment I have a show up at BCB Art in Hudson, NY, one of the reasons for my bloggy torpor. I had quite a few compelling conversations with people about the paintings before, during and after the opening. Apart from anything specific about the work, the idea of meaning kept coming to mind. There were points of consensus and of disagreement regarding the paintings, but the main thing was that as I listened I could hear meaning being created by these viewers and interlocutors as they discussed things with me and each other. (I have talked about this before, but it was interesting to watch it happen again the other day.) The specificity, characteristics and impact of the paintings are inert until they hit a public. The artist may be the first viewer, but things don’t get interesting until someone else shows up to talk to. The viewers turn on the light switch and make the work visible. It shows meaning not as an entity but as a relationship, a dynamic, a network, or, perhaps, in the words of A. R. Ammons:

the “field” of action
with moving, incalculable center
...
the working in and out, together
and against, of millions of events: this,
so that I make
no form of
formlessness