Monday, February 20, 2012

Shouldn't be for art's sake - Part 2

Foss, mixed media, beeswax on panel, 9 1/2" X 9 1/2"
I well remember writing my artist statement for my final show. I remember reading countless other artist statements of artists I respect. Many seemed evasively succinct. Others didn't have statements at all. I remember talking to Mike about how much to reveal about my work and how much to leave to the viewer to piece together.

He was on the Just-Spell-It-Out side of the line. I teetered towards the other.

Why did I feel some need to leave my viewers in the dark a bit? Why did I want to keep a sense of mystery? Why did I want to limit my statement to something "artsy" and "thought-provoking"? I think I was fighting against a trend at school to be mysteriously post-modern; to not assign meaning for fear of limiting interpretation; to seem grown up and mature in my work and my ability to let others view it.

Alain de Bottom said that one of the myths that the secular world propogates about arts is that, "Artists shouldn't say what they're up to because if they said it, it might destroy the spell and we might find it too easy. That's why, a very common feeling when you're in a museumlet's admit itis: I don't know what this is about. . ." He says this feeling is structural in Contemporary Art. He might be right.

He points out that religious have a much "saner attitude towards art." Art is about two things in all the major faiths: 1. What there is to love, and 2. What there is to fear and hate.

Doesn't that seems simple? It seems so much easier to draw meaning from art if it's that simple to dissect. How can we draw strength from art is we don't know what art is supposed to be telling us? If the meaning is so shrouded in theory and self-referential pedagogy that no one can get through to understand anything? We all pretend in art school. But I think everyone feels a little uneasy claiming to know what anything is supposed to mean.

But that's not the point. The point is not that everyone should imbibe the same meaning from the same work of art. The point is that art should be imbibe-able. It should be accessible enough that it is performing it's primary historical function: to improve society.

It seems to bright-eyed and bushy-tailed to exclaim, "ART CAN CHANGE THE WORLD!" But I think that art can, as de Bottom indicates, cement ideas in our minds that have otherwise come to us. He says "art is a visceral encounter with the most important ideas . . ." I think it's true. Art that moves me is art that I feel like I can learn from and connect with in a real way. If it's too highfalutin and cerebral, it's a lot harder to do that.

I'm not saying we should dumb down art or limit it in creativity or style, but I think artists need to be award of their heritage: we come from artists who cared about transferring strength and ideas in realaccessibleways.

Part 1 - HERE

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