: a literary description of or commentary on a visual work of art
In Greek, EKPHRASIS translates to explaining or pointing out. Perhaps, more specifically, it means the act of philosophically working something out in one's head.
Let's try some EKPHRASIS here. I bought a piece of art yesterday, likely my first real art purchase (as in: not from a friend). I had gone into a local coffee shop last week and saw some art that I really liked—prints of street scenes, muted colors, vivid spots of brightness, the blurriness of watercolors. I was pleasantly surprised to find the small prints were not grossly overpriced ($40). I went back a few days later and awkwardly admitted to the barista that I wanted to purchase one of the 9x12 images. I ordered a drink first and perused the prints for a moment so the transaction would seem more casual, as though I just wandered in off the street and decided to invest.
The print is titled Sapphire City. It's an image of a street view during a Portland dusk—rainy, blue, blurry reflections of taillights on the glistening pavement. Somewhat impressionistic. The word PORTLAND appears in the background, probably a sign on any number of buildings in the city. This city is proud of itself. The image reflects such a pride. Even I have that pride, part of the reason I enjoy this image. Of course, the colors are lovely, the composition is inviting, but the concept preys on my sense of regional vanity. The artist is saying, I love my place, I think its beautiful enough to emulate. The coffee shop then says, look at these beautiful representations of the beautiful city in which our business thrives. And I come in, order my Americano, hover around the images and think, this is me, in a coffee shop, looking at images of my beautiful city. I think, by purchasing the print, I am somehow part of this lovely food chain of images devouring themselves.
I am also currently reading Blues for Cannibals, which may slightly alter my perception.