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Painting, sculpture, and other arts are often thought to be the storehouse of a society’s memory; how it felt to exist in a particular place in a specific time. Thus, art affects the artist and enthusiast alike; both experience their fundamental sense of self.
Moreover, viewing art activates the brain’s reward center, where people process emotion. The artwork also increases empathy, tolerance, and critical thinking skills. Often the act of gazing at a painting and sculptures elicits feelings based on a person’s social standing.
How people respond to sculptures often differs from paintings. Because sculptures are three-dimensional (3D) and touch also plays a factor in how people perceive differences or commonality, this form of art satisfies the human desire for tactile and visual stimuli.
The act of touching causes the brain to release a hormone called oxytocin, often called the “love emotion.” Perhaps, this is one reason why some people prefer 3D over 2D artwork and why their responses differ.
During the planning process, artists create at least one drawing to guide their sculpture. Frequently, these include specific details such as the dimensions. In Michelangelo’s case, he started his planning with quick sketches. He then created a clay model or bozzetto, which in conjunction with the drawings, are used to execute the sculpture.
Michelangelo believed his work was divinely inspired. His genius was revealed through his exhaustive study of the human form and ancient sculptors. His version of the “Bacchus,” also known as “Dionysus,” is a delight for the eyes and begs to be touched. Its height is slightly taller than the average man, and its musculature is well defined with long smooth lines.
Overall, the “Bacchus” elicits strong emotions. Knowing this lithe, almost effeminate representation of the Greek God of Wine started as a block of marble is virtually impossible to grasp. However, walking around the sculpture provides unmatched visual and tactile stimuli compared to simply viewing the original sketches.
Written by Cathy Milne-Ware
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Shenandoah Art Therapy, LLC: Viewing Art Rewards the Brain
Totally History: Bacchus
Italian Renaissance Learning Resources: The Making of an Artist
Featured and Top Image Courtesy of Richard Mortel’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
Inset Image Courtesy of Francis Storr’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License