The Emotional Connection to Art

Every two months the prestigious photography magazine LensWork arrives at our home. I am not the photographer in the family, but I love to look at good fine art photos. Some may give me ideas for my painting. Some I find to be mediocre. I also like to read the comments of the editor, Brooks Jensen. In the latest issue (No. 109) he writes about the importance of understanding that viewers connect to art in various ways.

In interacting with an aunt who was evaluating several images, Brooks noticed that the images that she considered valuable, interesting, and compelling, were based on whether she had any connection to the content of the image. Similarly, our artwork will only be valuable or desirable to those who feel a pull or are seduced by the content.

Brooks states, “The artwork that is meaningful and truly speaks to us — and thereby has value — is the artwork that connects with us on a deeper level than like and dislike. It connects with us because somehow it explains, clarifies, illuminates, sympathetically vibrates with, or in some other way touches us either emotionally, intellectually, or spiritually.”

Trying to understand why and how a collector decides to by a particular painting of mine has sometimes been a mystery to me. Sometimes a friend will surprise me by purchasing a piece because the content of the painting is not a topic that I imagine would be compelling to her. I then realize that there are many things I don’t know about her, or perhaps have projected onto her. Here is one such piece.


Red Swing, acrylic on canvas, 12″x12″, ©2011, Ann Hart Marquis

It is also mysterious how one piece in my show could have been sold many times because, I surmise, it had some universal as well as personal appeal. I can never guess which painting will be the highlight of the show, but there always seems to be one or two that are the most desirable. Here are two that fall into that category:


Nightfall, acrylic on canvas, 16″x20″, ©2009, Ann Hart Marquis

Orange Lotus, acrylic on canvas, 14″x14″,
©2012, Ann Hart Marquis


Equally mysterious to me is why a painting that I consider perhaps one of my best, does not sell at an exhibit. It may sell later or never. Here is one of my favorite endeavors that has not yet sold.


Precarious, acrylic on canvas, 20″x24″, ©2010, Ann Hart Marquis

Have you done work or looked at a piece of art that surprised you by how compelling it is?

4 thoughts on “The Emotional Connection to Art

  1. NanciHersh

    Great post Ann… so true. One large painting I sold, I could’ve sold 3 more times, others that I think are just as strong or stronger are still in my studio. Finding that emotional connection is sometimes obvious and at other times we have to dig a little deeper.

  2. Margo Morado

    I would ride on that swing or climb that ladder if I could. I am with you – the precarious piece is one of your best. And I like the direction of both the swing and the ladder – up and down, one vertical, the other, arched. Both compelling and dizzying!


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