Date of Award

Spring 5-15-2023

Author's School

Sam Fox School of Design and Visual Arts

Author's Program


Degree Name

Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA)




What kinds of images stick with you? Are they the ones that are readable, understandable right from the get-go? Surely not. Likely, they’re the ones that challenge you, frustrate you, and entangle you in the process of trying to understand them. This thesis argues that the semantics of looking, and the way in which the art-object is experienced through the process of looking, creates the opportunity for the unique engagement of the viewer as more than a bystander. By frustrating them with a lack of information, or rewarding them for looking harder, the artist can make the viewer aware of their role in the work’s experience. As such, the unique rewards and inseparable shortcomings of how we look become just as important as what we are looking at. Embedded in this conversation is a discussion about what the viewer is looking for in a work of art – the contemporary consensus being that the viewer is looking for knowledge, for some truth that constructs meaning in the work of art. By changing what this truth is, and how its accessed, the viewer becomes entangled by their own desire to find it. They become attached to the looking process as an assurance that they can use it to excavate whatever there is to be found in the work. Instead, the only thing the viewer finds is themselves – their willingness to look becomes the activator of the work, and their own methodology of looking and entangling becomes the content of the work.