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 50 Years/50 Artworks      

Introduction

It could be said that every artwork tells a story, since even completely non-objective abstract paintings are made up of marks that chart the histories of their own creation, and abstractions can be “read” in various ways based on each viewer’s unique physiological and emotional responses, memories, and gut-level intuitions. And in turn, every effective artwork, even the most literally narrative illustration, can be viewed in terms how the elements of line, shape, texture, color and space are composed in support of that narrative.

Visual art is a mode of communication that predates written language, and it has always been a powerful way of delivering messages and telling stories. Long before a majority of people could read, paintings and sculptures communicated the facts, fables and morals of natural phenomena, mythological and religious stories, and important people, places and events. Art constitutes a visual record of what was important to people in a given place at a given point in history.

To "read" the story in a work of art, we decode the clues the artist gives us and put them together to build a narrative. Who are the characters? How are they interacting? Where and when? What action is taking place? What props does the artist give the characters? Other cues within the work, like color, light and dark, and the relative scale of objects and characters, also affect the meaning of the story.

Artists often tell stories about their own lives, or about things unfamiliar to us because they are not of our own time, place, or experience. Artworks may inspire people to ask questions and look in other places for more information about a topic. In this way, art helps us to learn more about others, to deepen our understanding of history, and to enlarge our experience of the world around us.

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