I went to art school, and this kind of work was the domain of the “fine artists,” who make abstract art to express ideas without getting literal about it. I.e. maybe they were inspired by an apple, but there may be no actual representation of an apple anywhere in the piece, and the point was for you to find your own interpretation, which probably wouldn’t contain an apple.
Much of the time, we in the computer animation major, and even those in more closely related majors, like illustration, wouldn’t know what we were looking at, and wouldn’t be moved in any way, but once in awhile something spoke to us across the divide. Some things didn’t make sense, weren’t useful, didn’t depict anything in particular to us, and wouldn’t likely be found in our homes, but we just liked them. They were somehow “really cool.” That’s how I feel about these creations by Japanese artist Naoko Ito, for her “Urban Nature 2009” series:
It looks like the branch segments are just resting inside, sometimes with smaller jars in the jars to act as support platforms. While there’s no particular ‘reason’ for this – it’s not furniture, organizational help, something you would give as a gift, or any of most of the rest of the kinds of things we make – it’s just really neat to look at. It makes things swirl around in my mind, like that we do actually sell bottles and jars of tree products, often not much more refined than this (powdered bark and roots, e.g., like homeopathic stuff, or even just cinnamon, the sticks of which are curled ‘quills’ of the bark).
There are a couple more examples here.
Viewing these creations, I seem to like the play of glass and wood together, and even the specific concept of glass jars in wood working. I start pulling it into my world, thinking about organizers (always more organizers!) that would use jars, but could be more natural in their makeup – a ‘tree’ of organization. That starts to take on structure in my mind and I start to think about things like flat-wall cabinetry that can pull out into a tree of pivoting pieces, to organically display the jars and their parts in a beautiful way – something even someone who doesn’t get the fine art aspect would still find themselves stopping to look at and saying “Wow, that is really cool.”
This is why, though even in art school, when many of us (even me sometimes) were saying “I just don’t get that major at all”, I’d still usually be glad it was around. There can be a lot of hidden inspiration in the weird stuff, and in some cases, I don’t know that I would have found it on my own.
-- Gary, Los Angeles, video game animator