(Image: Brittany Watson)Ever notice how the best art is always missing something? I mean that literally, as in even the most descriptive work of a certain quality stops short of articulating EVERY. LAST. DETAIL. The Mystery of the Missing applies to everything from very abstract to more representational art. Take John Singer Sargent's El Jaleo for example.
At least a third of this huge canvas is covered in deep shadow (including most of the main subject), and yet it resonates with a sense of music and movement that may have seemed contrived had each element been exactly rendered. This purposeful obscuring is only one example of an artist calling an idea to mind versus ramming it down the viewer's throat, but the juiciest bits of poetry, the most poignant novels and the most haunting music all evoke narratives and emotions rather than spell them out.
I have a theory about why these gaps in art are so compelling. They leave room for us to make an artwork our own. They invite us to saddle up beside a masterpiece and complete the puzzle for ourselves. Come to think of it, this desire to participate in the art could explain a lot about the popularity of the flash mob.
In my own business I've noticed that my most satisfied clients are those who feel that they have had some say in the painting that they commission from me. They want to discuss color choices, personalities (in the case of portraits), etc. It isn't enough to just own a work of art, they want to link themselves to it through their involvement in its creation. ( Side note: I am NOT saying that the most successful art is the result of outside input! As we know, this can have the effect of diluting products even outside of the fine art realm.) What I am saying is that good art entices us to participate in the artist's creation by leaving a little something up to the imagination.
So I ask you, Friends: Do you have favorite work of art that practices the Mystery of the Missing? (Visual, musical, performance -- It's all fair game!) Tell me a little about why you love it? Throw your hands up and be the first one on the dance floor! I promise not to judge :)