Steve’s previous post made me think about mystery and ambiguity in art, particularly as they help to create meaning. And his image reminded me of this recent image I made as part of my “Unholy Gost” series. I use ambiguous spaces and images in this series of paintings.

I talk to my students about the difference between “deliberate ambiguity” and disorganized confusion. While I encourage the happy accidents that occur in the process of creation, it can sometimes be an excuse to leave a piece unfinished, unclear and incoherent. Beginning students often want to make images that deal with the idea of chaos, but end up making disorganized messes. Mysterious images can so easily be so ambiguous as to be unreadable with no entry way into the work.

These can be pitfalls of art making. How can you tell if ambiguity is purposeful or if it reflects lack of clarity on the artist’s part?

Have you explored ambiguity in your own work? What are the challenges you face when doing so? Do you have any favorite artists who use ambiguity successfully?

PS – I tried to make the image larger, I swear, and the best I could do was a thumbnail you can enlarge. Anyone can go in and fix it if they are so inclined. I apologize for my ineptitude.