On "Understanding" Art

So often I've heard people say, "Well, I don't understand it," when they look upon some art piece, as if to say, "Well, I don't have any right to even have an opinion about this because, well, I don't know what people who actually 'know' about art would think of it, and I'm therefore not going to put forth my worthless two cents about it, because, well, I dread the potential of being mocked for having an unreasonable (wrong) thought."  

I think this unwillingness by the average person to engage in art is in part perpetuated by academics' analysis and pedestalization of certain styles, artists, movements, and subject matter over others, and the incessant grasping for some covert meaning behind a work, some intention for commentary on a social or historical phenomena... And we, the public, are guilty of quickly forgetting that we have senses of our own and latch onto this dogmatic view, thereby depriving ourselves of responding in honest ways to every kind of work that we see around us.  (This extends beyond 'art' (paintings, sculpture, etc.) - to every realm of human invention and interaction).  

Not all art has to "mean" something and even if it "does", you don't need to understand what that is in order for you to enjoy it.

Would you pass up eating a delicious meal because you didn't understand what the chef's intentions were when she made it, or how the food critic would describe its melody of flavors?  I should think not.  But people consistently do this with art, as if there should be something more at work apart from your eyes receiving light and transferring those signals to your brain.  Your brain's interpretation of those signals is entirely unique to you and you are justified in having whatever response you have, even if it's devoid of an intellectual understanding of the piece's significance amongst the millions of others like it.  I would strongly urge you to run far away from anyone with the sole claim on what an artwork means and doesn't mean, even if it's the artist himself.  Let them have their meaning, but retain your own and don't feel ashamed in expressing it.