Ambiguity

DEFINITION

Something open to two or more possible meanings; amphibolous. Alternating figures and other optical illusions may be helpful visual examples. In visual art, as in expository writing, ambiguity is usually something to be avoided, because it results in the audience's confusion. This might, however be an artist's intention, and perhaps involving irony or poetry rather than a straight communication of knowledge. Many creative works employ ambiguity quite effectively.There are several art terms that, when not used clearly, result in ambiguity. One example is "pastel," when it is not made apparent whether the it signifies the medium or soft tints. Another is enamel.To remove ambiguity is to disambiguate.Distinguish this word from the similar sounding "ambivalence."Quote: "Those who talk on the razor-edge of double-meanings pluck the rarest blooms from the precipice on either side." Logan Pearsall Smith (British, 1865-1946). "A large part of art's allure is its ambiguity; you can take it as you wish, make of it what you will." Holland Cotter (contemporary American) art critic. "Flaunting Dominion in Ancient Iran," New York Times, February 16, 2007, B40. An obscure word for the fear of being misunderstood is "ambiguphobia."Also see cryptic, definition, distort, and incongruity.

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