Perspective and Position: The Connotation of The World
There are two essential parts of perspective: the position and placement of what we see and the interpretation of what we see—the two parts work together and it is often the case that people manipulate the placement in their work in order to produce an audience interpretation within the range of their desire. In order to create a specific impression for their audience who will be experiencing, artists and individuals take extreme care in their choice of placement in their work or in themselves.
This manipulation with perspective is commonly observed in visual art; a visual artist has complete control of the placement on their canvas, which displays a single moment—this depiction of a single moment is different than the series of moments that happen in our real lives and cannot be revisited in real time, making art an excellent example of perspective and manipulation. With the manipulation of placement in a composition, an artist hopes to create their desired impressions and general interpretation of the piece upon the audience. Art compositions are often described as something that will push people to think beyond the artist’s intentions and discern their own interpretation, but the artist’s intention also holds significant weight. This importance of intention is supported by the artist Steve Prince’s work, both through his enjoyment of listening to our class interpretations of his work and his confirmation of certain meanings and intentions behind his work.
The intention an artist has in mind when they are creating a composition is a foundation for the composition; understanding some of the intent allows the audience the opportunity to establish the optimal interpretation and simultaneously pay respect to the context of how and why the art was created. Similarly, I have come to learn that realizing that there exists intent in the positions in art compositions and learning about that manipulation of placement in perspective is helpful in better understanding an artist’s intention. Steve Prince is an excellent example of artist that is both a supporter of free interpretation and an advocator for the intent of the artist. Prince constantly speaks about the meaning of certain things and their placement in his work for an intended effect on the piece and the perspective of the piece, but also advocates for our reflection and enjoys reading the blog post that our class completes on him and his art.
This use of perspective is extremely visible in the compositions of Steve Prince, an educator and art evangelist from New Orleans Louisiana. Beyond his own verifications of his use of position and placement to have a specific effect, I believe that I could understand and feel the general impression he wanted to present, because he uses some of the general connotations with position in our society. We typically have certain positive or negative associations with certain body positions and placements in specific context. There is an abundance of different positions that mean different things to most people; there are large general connotations, but some might vary regionally. During an interview for example, one might have the conception that straight posture, a smile, and eye contact are the most positive positions and will leave the best impression; or someone might observe an individual with open arms open and view them as peaceful and accepting. Several of these general connotations in our society can be observed in art—artists manipulate their compositions with placement and utilize these societal connotations in order to influence interpretation, this is perspective in art.
Steve Prince stands at the center of my growth and development throughout the semester in the INTD 288 course, in terms of the understanding of the impact of placement/positioning on interpretation and connotation—this center of growth includes Steve Prince himself, his art that he explained to us, and the lectures which discussed his compositional works. While it might appear obvious that the artists intention is extremely, the emphasis on self-thought in art over the past few years had led me to lose focus of the balance between my own interpretations. With the INTD course discussing Steve Prince’s work and collaborating with Steve Prince, as well as other guest lecturers, I have come to better understand the importance of both my own interpretations and the intentions of an artists as they manipulate their canvas to affect perspective—the connotations in society that I have used and have become more aware of were especially helpful in understanding of the intention of an artist.
The Olympia Nicodemi lecture and the Mark Broomfield lecture were two particular lectures discussing perspective and body positioning that were extremely helpful in my connection between the general connotations of body positioning and positioning/placement in art. Olympia Nicodemi was a lecturer that brought attention to the foundations of perspective and the common uses of these foundations for perspective, eventually venturing off to the uncommon uses of perspective and the effects they produced—we used this in connection to Prince’s manipulation with perspective and movement in his pieces, like the warping of the chess board tiles in his Katrina Suite or the Horsemen positioned above the children in the Gretna Bridge piece. Eventually, we took a look at Goya’s The 3rd of May which showed how placement and body position altered the interpretation of what was happening. Goya’s The 3rd of May specifically depicted a man with open arms in front of several French soldiers during the invasion of Spain during the Peninsula War. The opened armed position, which delivers the impression of someone in peace being wrongfully attacked, can also be observed in Steve Prince’s Gretna Bridge, where several children are trying to cross a bridge to escape the damage of Hurricane Katrina and are stopped by several police officers.
While I had previously had my own thoughts and knowledge on perspective, my ideas certainly began to shift slightly with the lectures in the INTD 288 course. I came to realize just how prominent body positioning was in this society with the thoughts I gained during Mark Broomfield’s dance lecture, where he directed us to created dance positions that conveyed certain ideas. I realized the large applications of perspective in our society, seeing the effects of placement on interpretation nearly everywhere.
Jazz and the positioning in an musical ensemble, as well as the psychological impact of body position and facial expression of the performer in a performance on the audience and the performer, are one specific application of perspective I came to realize—I am fairly familiar with jazz and was aware of the impacts of certain body positions during a performance on the performance and its interpretation by the audience, but I had not yet connected this to the general connotations of position present everywhere that could also be found in visual art, which was an extremely surprising discovery. This was a realization of the importance of perspective everywhere and how rooted and dependent people were on body position and perspective in society to create certain impressions and set a certain tones or atmospheres—I have always known that musicians who are smiling and enjoying their music push their audience to enjoy the music, in the same way that Prince’s smile and dancing while he invited us on Stage for his Kitchen Talk Lecture helped set the atmosphere and make it easier for us to join him on stage. These things that create certain connotations or impressions are present almost everywhere, and they are extremely important because they can enable people the chance to experience—in the same sense, it might pull people away from experience.
With this direction, I came to realize that people often subconsciously use certain connotations or associations with specific body positions and connected it to the intent of visual artist when they place objects or people in their art. Prince’s talk was clarification that artist manipulate position and perspective, and that it matters that we know their intent and where this use of perspective came from.
Prince’s final Kitchen Talk lecture and acknowledgement of the use of certain placements and perspective art shifts in his own works in order to emphasize certain feelings and create a general interpretation served as more confirmation on my ideas of perspective and the power it has everywhere, in art and in the real world. Prince confirmed his purposeful placement of objects in his compositions to convey certain ideas and hold certain symbols in place. One example that Prince always mentions is the use of the Holy Spirit in several forms to convey life and add some representation to his work. Beyond his own placement of the Holy Spirit, he also confirmed some of the body positions he used in his art to convey more general ideas like peace or love—these are more general connotations society holds. Prince confirmed his own recycling of positions from previous art compositions from history in his own, showing that these positions do in fact hold particular connotations that could affect interpretations; some examples include: the concerned look in Edward Hopper’s New York Movie, which can be observed in Steve Prince’s Salt of The Earth, the open arm position of the figure in Goya’s The 3rd of May, which can be observed in Gretna Bridge, and Winslow Homer’s Gulf Stream, which can be observed in Prince’s Take Me to The Water.
Our exploration of perspective throughout the course, as well as Prince’s confirmation of his experimentation on position to convey certain feelings and impact the general interpretation of his audiences has been extremely helpful in assisting my realization of the large impact positioning has with connotation and “perspective”, as well as the equal importance of both the artist’s intention and my own interpretation. The lectures have been extremely enlightening and have pushed me to explore old thoughts on the our choices of posture and position in life and how they impact the interpretations people have of us, realizing that these connotations exist in more than just real life where moments flash before our eyes, but also in art, especially visual art which has the ability to present a single frozen moment and show that position and impact our interpretation of the piece.