The Art of Art
In the rush to embrace the next trend, crown the next genius, and jump on the next bandwagon I think we forget that art is about you.
Or rather You.
Art is a lot of things, so many things that people get years of schooling just to tell others what is ‘good’ art and what is ‘bad’ art but in the end we forget that art is a totally subjective thing and it’s really about you/me/us. Art is powerful when it touches something in us, rouses something in us, makes us think or feel something more than we did before we encountered it. The art that moves us is our business and ours alone when rubber hits road. Sure, we need scholars and critics to let us know things about art we didn’t get on our initial encounter – relevance, meaning, technique, pedigree, importance to a time or movement, etc. – but it’s up to us to decide whether the art means something or not to us. The best thing getting a new opinion on a piece of art – painting, poem, piece of music, story, drawing, or whatever – is that it lets us see the work through new eyes and see if we perhaps missed something that will make the piece more meaningful to us. That’s pretty powerful to be able to do that and again, the real thing to credit is the art itself for having more to reveal.
Now there is certainly ‘high’ art and ‘low’ art because there is a difference between a painting someone took years to conceive and paint and a poem someone wrote on a napkin while at lunch BUT, ahem, BUT that doesn’t mean that those to pieces are not equally powerful, just that how they were created and what went into them was different. What matters in the end is that the work was made with passion and the rest is up to the person that comes into contact with it. I am the most amateur of painters, am self-taught, and I paint what I want to paint and what amuses me. I scoff at the notion of my paintings being ‘art’ but they are, and they are fine AS they are. They are not art meant for the masses, meant to teach, to expand, to tell a story and hang in hallowed halls. No, my paintings are meant for people that appreciate the weird and the silly, the strange and the odd. People that can appreciate that my passion is greater than my skill. And most certainly one of my silly paintings could conceivably touch someone more deeply than a Renoir well, I mean it’s CONCEIVABLE certainly, but let’s not get ridiculous.
Art has a bad tendency to become parody, imitation, and of late cash-cow. Too many times we are seeing stories of people co-opting the art or visions of others only to profit then fall on the old standard that they are just being persecuted for re-purposing art, or for being a maverick, or some other nonsense people make up. The passion that used to fill art, that used to inform and infect and invite seems contrived so many times. Sure, there is ‘commercial’ art, art made for the purpose of drawing in a sale of some sort, and that’s fine, fine because it can still be made passionately, but we’re seeing too much art become commoditized and too many looking to become the next sensation. Without that passion though art loses its power and connection. Art, all art, has value, even if it is simply to the person creating it. Not everyone will connect with everything, that’s the nature of art but who are we to dismiss and denigrate people for not creating art we connect with? There are plenty of things I don’t like but who am I to tell someone they are wrong for liking it? That’s nonsense. Yet…we do that all the time.
Maybe we all need to remember the street level artists of the world who are doing art because they have no choice. Who celebrate every small sale or notice. Maybe we need to remember when we were kids and we sang because we felt the music, wrote stories because the words spoke to us, and we drew because we wanted to put the worlds in our head into reality. Maybe we need to remember what it was like when we listened to ourselves to know what we liked. Maybe we need to remember what it was like to feel the passion first and the rest followed that drive.
Maybe we need to remind ourselves what art means.
Maybe we need to trust what we like and screw everyone else.
Maybe we need to let people do what they love and stop telling them they are awful at it.
Maybe we should be open to talking about what we love, why we love those things, and not feel the need to tell people they are wrong for loving what they do.
Love what you love and that’s all that matters.
The hope is that all our tastes will broaden, will be honed, and will pick up new flavors and interests over time but art is about what we feel and we really need to stop letting other people tell us what we feel. If people want to argue over artistic merit, value, importance, and meaning then let them. That stuff can be fun to get into from time to time. But when we de-value art and the passion of the artist and the appreciator well, then we forgot what art was all about to begin with, didn’t we.