A plane crashed into a building, so what?
Is it the word "building" that upsets you? Do the letters P-L-A-N-E make you violent? I didn't think so. But ask if anyone would like to see footage of the tragic crash again and the response is an overwhelming no. The images are certainly powerful, and undoubtedly more powerful than words.
Humans are visual creatures. We devour graphic information to feed our senses, and most of the time we enjoy it. Lately, videos, photographs and illustrations full of shock value are flooding the globe. If a picture is worth a thousand words, then buckle up.
Art was developed to convey ideas to illiterate society. Images are as real, as important, and say as much as text does. Anyone who argues this deserves an A for effort followed by a swift kick in the ass. A visual says it all at once. There's no escaping it.
You could be leafing through a newspaper or a magazine, or you could be casually walking past a store window or billboard. Then, you get slapped across the face by a few innocent lines and colours in a picture. Is this why censorship for words is less harsh than it is for art? Should artists apologize for making a statement? Why do writers have more freedom of expression in their work? The answer is nowhere in sight.
Did you know that Andrew D. Arnold, an illustrator for Time magazine, was out of work for weeks following the attacks? They honestly told him to go away. "So sorry, but you can't draw for us at the moment. The public isn't ready to see anything more." Of course, the columnists went on with their benign columns and said very little. They won't offend anyone by typing a few words, they're just doing their jobs.
In an article, meaning can be subtly expressed. Implications and personal opinions are conveyed without fail--cleverly masked by words and choice punctuation. An illustration gets printed, and it's immediately open for misinterpretation. It could be full of good intentions, yet unfairly dismissed by some average Joe. Therefore, perception of art must stop being so automatic, as not everything is black and white. Heaven forbid anyone should actually stop and think about the meaning of the image before having a fit.
Yes, you can criticize art regardless of any formal knowledge. Sure, you have the right to decipher images in a way that makes sense to your personal values. But don't deny the intrinsic value of something simply because you don't enjoy it. At least make an educated guess about what's being said before you get upset. You may not always like what you see. Life's tough--get a helmet. Will the day when images are no more offensive than words ever come? I'll have to see it to believe it.