Conrad Shwiering [1916–1986] | Coming Home | Oil on Canvas | 30 x 40 inches | Courtesy of Jackson Hole Art Auction

Editors Note: The Heart of the Matter

I remember having a conversation as a college freshman with a friend who was studying painting. It was early in her career, and she was wondering about the usefulness of an artist’s statement, perhaps a bit bothered with the “busy work” of having to write one during final exams.

“Shouldn’t my work stand on its own?” she wondered. “Shouldn’t it be open to interpretation, allowing viewers to find their own meanings? Or is it the artist’s responsibility to offer an explanation for what they hope to express?”

Thinking back on this conversation, I can understand her perspective and the pressure she felt to put down in writing what she hoped to convey through imagery. But given the choice, I’d prefer the option of an artist’s or curator’s statement. I love discovering the intentions behind the work. I want to understand where the piece stands in relation to art history, theory, and the artist’s life. I love learning about the battles and efforts that took place during its creation. How did composition, color theory, anatomy, light, and perspective work together to communicate an idea?

The articles in WA&A offer these insights in much the same way. And the artists, architects, and designers profiled in this issue have many intriguing or important messages to share.

Take, for example, the work of painter Adrian Aguirre. Moved by experiences from growing up in the bordertown of Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, he has dedicated his artistic practice to painting portraits of people stuck in the limbo of migration. He aims to inspire empathy in his audience by showing the humanity of people impacted by politics (“Art as Advocacy,” pg. 148).

Artist Robert Townsend’s work also has a message to share. The artist is known for his nostalgic paintings of Americana, and he believes his most recent series depicting a woman named Helen in the 1960s and ’70s best embodies this idea. Townsend hopes to provide some levity and inspire joy through his work. He wants his paintings of Helen to remind his audience that life is a gift worth celebrating and fully living (“An American Muse,” pg. 136).

Photographer David Yarrow also has plenty of stories to tell. Taking his cues from blockbuster filmmakers, his photos convey elaborate plots through the use of symbolism. He finds that Western art is particularly vibrant for this type of storytelling, as few other genres can compete with the West’s thematic potential (“Lights, Camera, Action,” pg. 160).

Architects also have hidden intentions uncovered in these pages. We learn through their work how thoughtful design and material choices inform our emotional response to a space. Architecture can be a story we experience daily, and the architects profiled here share how they achieve this.

The ability to convey a message that inspires deep understanding or emotion is the eternal quality of art. Here at WA&A, we are so grateful to the many brilliant creative individuals who make us feel and understand this world more profoundly.

Christine Rogel, Editor in Chief


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