Alexander Nemerov, an art professor at Yale University, said art can be expressed and perceived in different ways by different people, and all of these interpretations are valuable.
Nemerov spoke alongside Roberto Tejada, an art history professor at Southern Methodist University, Thursday night as a part of the Art History Lecture Series sponsored by the Blanton Museum and the UT art history department. More than 60 people attended the event. The lecture focused on the methodology art writers use and challenges they face expressing themselves creatively.
Tejada said one of these challenges include distinguishing the thin line between fact and fiction. He said writers often feel restricted by the historical record of literature, photographs and paintings and become afraid to express their own point of view in their writings.
“Think of art history as speculative fiction,” Tejada said. “We’re referring to what happens afterwards. [Writing about] how things are related is what really conveys your point of view and makes you accountable.”
Tejada said Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges was a great example of interpretive fiction because he often mixed fact with fiction.
Associate art history professor Cherise Smith helped organize the lecture to inspire her students to be more creative in their writing. Smith said writing is an art form and something visual that can be defined creatively. “As grad students, people want to make an iron clad argument and believe writing creatively doesn’t get you to that end point,” Smith said. “It’s like dancing with a strict format versus moving your hips and moving your arms.”
Art history graduate student Doris Bravo said many graduate students believe creative writing should be separate from academic writing. Bravo said she liked the lecture because Tejada and Nemerov emphasized it is okay to be creative and read and write for fun.
“We’re programmed to be very scientific and when you layer a story you always have a fear people won’t take it seriously,” Bravo said.
Nemerov said when he teaches art history courses he never assigns books on art history and instead assigns classics like “In Cold Blood” by Truman Capote. Nemerov said the best writing conveys what the writer took away from the art without any regard to what anyone else says and whether it’s going to be read.
“You have to have the courage to be a little weird,” Nemerov said. “There is value in something that gets spoken without any guarantee it’s ever going to be heard.”