It is time to take a moment and acknowledge a fine line that must be walked when on a search for meaning - especially when one is exploring meaning in visual images. The simple truth is this: sometimes things are just what they seem to be. Sometimes there is not a deeper meaning implied in a composition or image or in the unique juxtaposition of objects. Sometimes, like the scratchboard image below of a band clamp, an image is just a visual interpretation or exploration of an object and serves no greater purpose.
I say this by no means to dissuade the search for connection, meaning and revelation in encounters with art. I say it instead as a call to mindfulness in those encounters. A mindfulness that brings awareness to what is presented - acknowledging it for what it is, gleaning from it what one may and letting it be simply what it is when a search for significant meaning and purpose seems fruitless.
Having said this I must also acknowledge that rarely will an image exist that is devoid of meaning or connection, even in some small way, for someone who encounters it. We are, after all, people living our lives from moment to moment carrying with us the infinite stories and experiences from each past moment which feed into each next moment creating context, connection and continuity. With all of those connections playing into each encounter it is very possible that someone may have a memory jarred by a seemingly benign image inducing an unexpected emotional response and there by imbuing that image with meaning.
Of course by now you can see why I call this is a fine line to walk - because even when something is created without intentionally implied meaning it is in the mysterious nature of art to reach out to us when we encounter it and stir within us memory, connection and meaning. In the opposite vein sometimes a piece of art, created with meaning in mind, does not move us but instead leaves us emotionally flat. We all bring different experiences into each encounter and what works in one moment for one person may not work for another but the moment remains valid for each just the same.
And so we must carry on searching for meaning where we can, encountering meaning when it sneaks up on us and letting meaning rest when things are just what they seem to be.