I totally know what you’re saying here, but on the other hand, I cannot believe for a minute that say someone like Hitchcock couldn’t tell you what he was doing in some particular scene—although I do agree that it can take away from the enjoyment of the work to hear an artist say something which seems to be completely wrong about his/her own work. I think what’s really behind this is not necessarily that an artist is “not as smart” or that a critic is so smart. I think that may not be it. I think what happens is the act of trying to explain something which is too complex to be explained in gangly, big words forces the artist to say things which do not do his ideas justice. That is the whole point, that the artist, the painter, the filmmaker, has chosen a non-verbal medium to express his/her ideas, for 2 reasons 1) the ideas aren’t the most suited to words 2) words are not really these people’s thing. Therefore, it’s inevitable that when forced to use “words” to explain, the words fall flat. The artist himself would probably be just as disgusted at hearing his own explanation of his work as you would. The critic merely sounds smart because the critic is in his water—writing pretty sentences, juxtaposing, evaluating, referencing—all nothing but mental gymnastics which may or may not semi-incidentally overlap and even shed light on a particular work. But to say that this means the critic is smarter or even understands that particular piece “better” than the artist who did it, might be erroneous. Neither the critic nor the artist could possibly explain the meaning of a truly great work of art in a simple blurb. It’s likely to be based on many experiences, emotions, ideas. Furthermore, the ambiguity in great art is not simply because the artist does something one way then someone else comes along and sees it in a different way (and now there are 1 + 1 = 2 meanings?) No, I think it’s because there really are multiple meanings thanks to real ambiguity, which is intrinsic to the work itself, even if the artist is not consciously aware of them. They were there as the idea existed in the void either before or perhaps as it became realized. To imply those elements which an artist does not consciously recognize in his own work are therefore less important is problematic, to my theory. Never mind that I just contradicted what I said a few pages ago this is what happens with a rant. On the other hand, of course, to simply say a work can mean anything and everything (art is what it means to you) is subjective and annoying. The real truth of the meaning must be based on a serious equation which takes into account the artist’s conscious meaning + the top five critical interpretations sautéed in clarified butter and garnished with an olive. To be approved of then eaten by me.