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The pleasure of art is, in part, in its ambiguity. Ambiguity allows us to insert our own narrative into a painting. For example, when I look at a Rembrandt self-portrait, I feel I am looking at the artist. Rembrandt, for me, somehow inserts character in his portraits. This is personal, of course, and may not be valid for others looking at his work. That is precisely the point.

Art, in the form of painting and sculpture, encourages broad interpretation. We know that the brain processes words differently from images. To leave something ill defined in writing is somehow unsettling. Visual non-definition is not as the viewer will fill in the blanks. If they are unable to, they simply move on. But with writing, ambiguity is more difficult to inject as it impacts narrative, something that readers need to stay connected to in a book. Joyce and Kafka are two eminent writers who struggled with this, successfuly of course, but that success was hard won.

Ambiguity in furniture clashes with function. A chair with too few legs is no longer a chair. However, I see ambiguity when isolating pieces that are parts of design schemes. Take, for example, the Austrian secessionist furniture, there are some good period rooms in the Neue Museum in NYC, and isolate one piece of furniture. It has far less impact, it almost becomes ambiguous by missing the supporting cast of furniture. There is an air of mystery to it, but there is also a loneliness and lack of meaning in one piece on its own. Ambiguity at its best, be it in painting, writing or furniture offers a sense of mystery that is enhanced by lack of definition. At its worst, it feels like a con game that no matter how hard you try, does not come into focus.

Notwithstanding this, exterior forces such as the market for example, will exalt fine art through its ambiguity. Sometimes, particularly when I read the results of a comtemporary art sale, I want to know just what I am missing.