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Busting Myths About Abstract Art

Illustrated by Jasmine Rock

Abstract art, like all styles of art, has its detractors. For some, it's personal taste and for some, it's due to myths that have been around since the 20th century. These two misconceptions sometimes trip people up, so I'm going to debunk them. Full disclosure: I'm an abstract artist; my work makes no reference to nature at all. I love abstract art and I want as many willing people to love it, too!


This is the most harmful myth of them all! Abstract art has a bit of a pretentious reputation. If someone mentions that they don’t like or “get” abstract art, others sometimes judge them as being unsophisticated.

At the root of this myth is two things: the very human desire to quickly find the ‘right answer’, and unfortunately, arrogance. There isn’t much we can do about the latter, but we can examine the former.

All you need to appreciate abstract art is an open mind and heart. Some pieces are meant to convey the artist’s emotions, some aren't, some have an obvious message, and some don't. The main thing is that a piece makes you think and/or feel something. Approach all art with curiosity and patience and you won’t fall prey to this myth or impose it on someone else.


I understand this one, to a point. With representational works (ex. landscapes and portraits), the physical world is the benchmark. How accurately did the artist draw that tree or person? You can judge for yourself based on your lived experience. Abstract art doesn’t have that concrete reference point, so it can be harder to assess. From there, it’s easy to assume that it required little skill or thought, especially if the piece appears to be simple.

"My kid could do that," is the all-too-common remark. Children (specifically with no guidance) can make abstract art but, they’re just playing around. Practicing abstract artists create with purpose and they have something to say through their art. They are committed to mastering their medium and subject matter the same as every other artist.

The simplest way to combat this myth is by reading artist statements. Artists use those short blurbs to explain the how, what and why behind their work. Once you know more about it, the skill and meaning that went into a piece becomes more apparent.

Abstract art is a very broad category; wild, abstract expressionist paintings look nothing like more structured, modernist works. You won't respond to every abstract you see but if you keep looking, chances are, you'll find something that you connect with. Still don't care for it? That's totally fair. Find the type of art that speaks to you, whatever that looks like.


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