On Creating Your Own Meaning

21 February, 2019

In one of my classes we talk endlessly about metaphors and the way that artists create pieces with meaning that sometimes people cannot see. How we can look at a photo of an empty bed and make a connection about love or loneliness even though all we see is an empty bed. It's our culture that has trained us to make these associations and to know that gifting flowers is a sign of love, and we've been conditioned to find meaning in these things that don't inherently have any, so what does that mean for us?

I've been looking for some feedback on this concept of creating meaning. A pen is just a pen until you learn how to write and then you learn that a piece of plastic now becomes a symbol for storytelling and education. How can we use this to give more meaning to ourselves? To see ourselves as beautiful and important because we say so? If everyone has always had this power, to see things how we want to, then what does it say about the things that we don't assign so much meaning to? When is a pen just a pen?

I know how this seems, I look at the discussion in these classes sometimes and I think about how redundant it is. Who cares about metaphors and meaning? Should I, as an artist (??), understand the great philosophy of meaning so that I can make art and then people a story using this kind of hidden language? I mean, what difference does it make if I tell people this drawing is about world peace when I don't really have the power to get us there? What does it mean when people on social media tell us to value ourselves when we don't really know how to do that? To really value ourselves for real without having to pretend or look for constant reassurance? Is it true that you can't love other people until you've learned to love yourself? Can you feel loved without reciprocating it? Can you love without feeling loved?

And somebody else told me about how we need to realize our positions and how we are located in society and I feel like that reduces everything I think I know. When you look at people closely enough you will always find error, mistake, and by that logic is anyone ever going to be qualified enough to talk about love or life or art? I don't have the experience to maybe talk about the things I want to talk about so does that mean I shouldn't talk about them? I feel like there's so much discussion about hypotheticals and no way to practically apply any of this abstract meaning to real things. Does it have to be me? Do I have to be the one to protest and sign petitions and build houses and correct people when they say the wrong things?

In another discussion we talked about how the meaning of one thing is defined by the meaning of its opposite, (like how nobody really knows hot until they know cold or how we don't know love unless we know its absence) and this pretty much blew my mind. And I think about how everything could change given the right circumstances, that maybe everything I know is that really fragile and I don't know whether to be happy about the fluidity or scared of the fragility. Is everything really defined by comparison? What about all the things we don't know or I don't know, could everything be changed so suddenly?

Maybe there's a place for social commentary and abstract thinking and it's the philosophy of it all that confuses me. It feels too easy to look at something and describe its meaning but too difficult to create my own. I'm trying to take in all these different ideas and apply them to the things that are real so that when I make things I know why I'm doing it and I know how we can use them to help each other.


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  1. This is a really interesting discussion! I so miss being part of college classes that would talk about stuff like this (especially in ethics class, things got intense). This reminds me of whenever I go to a museum and wander the gallery wondering what the artist meant in each piece. It's like, someone can study the art and pull their own meaning from it with symbolism and the like, but sometimes I wonder if the artist was feeling things as they created the piece instead of tucking hidden symbols inside it. Maybe it can be both? Food for thought. Really cool post!

    1. Oh the discussions DO get heated! Everybody has their own view to share and it definitely applies to museums because there has to be some sort of intention, but do we really get it? I think you're right, thank you for commenting! ♡


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