I'd always wondered if I was fundamentally not understanding the way art exhibits work, or museums in general. I enjoyed the science museums of my youth – there was a fantastic one not too far from where I lived – but just never connected with art exhibitions the same way.
The genius of a science museum, at least to my particular taste, is that it had exhibits that asked for more attention than a casual glance. It promised that, if you stopped, read, and thought, you might have some insight or understanding of something. There was a sneeze machine, for instance, with explanations of how sneezes worked, that honestly might have honestly saved a few lives, given how memorable it was, how long that exhibit stayed, and how it led to a very visceral understanding of aerosol and droplet exposure years before a major international pandemic. Nobody knows what knowledge will be useful in the future, so we might as well learn a whole lot.
I've appreciated art, but never very quickly. I was told to read a poem, but slowly, so slowly it would challenge almost anyone. That I should take the first bit, and turn it over in my head over and over, while I went for a walk. And then take the next part, and repeat it over and over again the same way. It's possible almost no one has appreciated poetry, as I've only heard the advice once, and it is a challenging thing to do even when you know you'd appreciate the process.
I've heard the median amount of time spent looking at a work of art in a museum is less than 30 seconds. I cannot say I've had more patience, but at least I grasped at how fruitless this process was. Can you imagine praising a work so careless that your attention exhausts all of its craft in seconds? No, you would never do that. Truly amazing art takes much longer to appreciate, you know that from your own experience, the careful and meticulous building of theme and import you've enjoyed in your most favorite works.
All I wish to say is that, there exists truly amazing paintings, ones where, without words, you could spend hours on them. You could start imagining what they might want to say, think about how it is said, focus on small details and return to big ideas. You could focus on how just a part might make you feel, and notice it has many other parts, and see how they support or conflict with each other. You could take it all in, and find your attention is well rewarded. There is art, of all types, that you might find worthy of the effort it takes to appreciate it.
And I hope you try.
Perhaps by April I could find a local Slow Art Day event, where people can share the fruits of their efforts, and by discussing art, perhaps increase their appreciation of it in hindsight. I've had this experience many times, and don't doubt it being valuable. Perhaps you can find one too, or organize one, or something. I don't want you to think I have all the answers. Part of thinking is an art as well, and demands attention and thought from all of us to get any value from it at all.