I recently finished a book about the works of Salvador Dali, whose art fascinates me to no end. It’s also given me some good inspiration for some of my stories because the paintings can be interpreted in so many ways.
When you look at a Dali painting, especially one like The Apotheosis of Homer, you can really get lost in it. The depth of symbolism and the small details force you to look closely and think about what the artist intended for the piece and what your own interpretation might be. Paintings like Dream Caused by the Flight of a Bee Around a Pomegranate a Second Before Awakening are filled with familiar objects put together in such a way that evokes Freudian symbolism and the end of a long dream sequence.
Classic literature is similar; often, there is so much going on in classic works like those of Faulkner, Proust, and Joyce, that you have to “listen up” and pay attention so that you can grasp the author’s intended meaning, while also forming your own meaning from it.
That is the reason I enjoy art and literature rather than math and science, which are so “black and white” – there’s only one right answer and a logical, concrete reason why that particular answer is the right one. When it comes to art and literature, it’s an open field. There are no wrong interpretations. Math and science are beautiful in their precise ways, but art and literature truly allow you to create your own mental imagery and exercise your creative mind. There aren’t any hard-and-fast rules, but like Dali, Faulkner, Proust, or Picasso, you have to know and respect the “rules” and existing trends in order to break and transform them.