Who can better express the idea of surrealism in art than Salvador Dali? Surrealism, to me, is more of a state of mind than an art form. You have to be willing to look at objects in a perspective that is anything but literal. What you get out of a surrealist work of art is entirely up to you. So where does Dali come in? Well, one look at his paintings and drawings would be enough to tell you that things are not all they seem.
For example, Dali is famous for the dripping clocks. I believe that this symbolizes the transient quality of life. If you wait too long, it drips through your fingers. Surrealist works are always up for debate as to the symbolism of the objects portrayed because the viewer’s personal experiences will affect their perspective. An object in the work may remind them of an incident that has certain emotions connoted to it. Therefore, they associate that object with those emotions. Surrealism depends on the individual viewer for interpretation because every person will come away with something different.
If someone does not step out of their literal minds to view the work of art, the surrealism and resulting symbolisms and connotations will be lost on them. They will only be confused and unsettled after viewing the work of art. It is not that they will not understand as much as they will not let themselves experience. Usually, these types of people are the types who think that Thomas Kinkade is the only real art. For them, beauty comes only in one form and they cannot see otherwise.
There are two things to watch out for when viewing surrealist art (or any art, for that matter). The first is over-enthusiasm. This is when you believe that you are really seeing the work in all its subtexts and instead of being contemplative about what they mean, you want to see more works to see if you can do the same thing. Instead of a realization of the human condition and interpretation of life, viewing art becomes a game. It becomes a matter of showing off that you understand rather than actually trying to expand your perspective and truly gain understanding.
The second thing to be wary of is stereotyping. This is when you believe that surrealism comes in only one form. This is hurtful to the view of art because limiting what you perceive to be surrealist affects the way you see any other work of art. If you insist on looking at a work as a literal piece rather than surrealist, no matter how mundane it may seem, you cannot possibly come away with all that the work has to offer its viewers. Remember what was said earlier, perspective is what really affects a work of art and how any one person will interpret it. So, also, the definition of surrealism is fluid, changing according to the viewer and his or her personality. The key thing to remember about surrealism is that it is supposed to defy rules; therefore, any rules set on it can only hurt the viewer.