Thursday, March 6, 2008

"What is Art?"

This was a discussion over on the SCBWI board. I thought it was a great discourse, but even more.. this amazingly brilliant video of Creature Comforts (click on title) totally answers the question posed by the poster in the first place.  Art is completely subjective-differently defined by different people. (or animals- love the penis line, so my husband) I truly wish artists would stop trying to divide and conquer eachother with their own narrow views of what makes real art and what does not- and just respect the act of making art in all of it's various forms. Then again- I want world peace also.... Let me know when the temperature starts dropping in hell. Anyway, I'm cross posting my opinion here, cause I can.

I will speak from my own experience. My background is in animation, my heart in cartoons. I spent the 4 years of my college education defending the value of my work to my illustration professors who drew lines defining what was good art and what was not. So this discussion struck a chord with me.

Every year, I go on a weekend trip all alone. I call it my "sanity break". I leave the life of a stay at home Mom behind and go to emerse myself in "art". I believe without great input, one can not have great output. I drive 3 1/2 hours north of L.I. to the Berkshires- first stop, The Norman Rockwell Museum. It's like a pilgrimage to Mecca for me. If I am lucky there will be another artist on display there, I have seen Jesse Wilcox Smith, Maxfield Parrish, JC Leyendecker. I have been known to cry and have the little old lady volunteers bring me kleenex. Afterwards I drive on...45 minutes north to North Adams, Ma, sleep and in the morning walk to Mass Moca. The Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art.( Until 6 years ago, I never even knew what "contemporary art" was or cared to, I dimissed it as.. well, crap actually. I decided it was crap with out really exposing myself to it. Because in my mind, to be a real artist, - you had to draw- and I mean DRAW. That was MY criteria for art... show me how well you can draw.) Anyway, my first step into the first gallery was like falling down the rabbit hole, dizzying, thrilling... nauseating... and I loved it. There was stuff that I loved! And stuff that I hated! And I loved the feeling of having those reactions! There was photography, installations, video art.. crazy brilliant stuff.. and brilliantly crazy stuff!
My last day is spent at The Clark. Bastion of academic beauty. Here you can see within an hour a Renoir, a Sargent, a Reubens , a Durer... and I can get lost in how one brush stroke at the tip of a nose makes it pop off of the canvas. Or how paint becomes velvet so soft you want reach out and touch it, alarm or no alarm..
so blah, blah, blah,.. what I'm getting at is that I have decided to draw no lines. I think the artist who studies his/her whole life to paint the most realistic jug of water or the most translucent skin feels the same thing as I do when I drag my blue pencil across a piece of vellum to create the perfect weighted line around a cartoon characters eye's to give it that illusion of life. I think an artist who plants trees upside down, suspended from a wire feels that same feeling, perhaps to a different end, maybe it's more external in the hopes of the reaction viewers will have but it's still that need to, express, create, move, share, leave a trace of yourself behind.. share an experience. Be human. And I do believe all children are "natural" artists and many do unlearn that carefree need to create and express, but the few, who refuse to put down they're crayons.. go on to become true artists. My wish is that more people would spend time taking it all in and less time counting some of it out. It's not all going to be your cup of tea, but it's all there to learn from.- Ok, I'm done. -'nuff said.

"The thing that is really hard, and really amazing, is giving up on being perfect and beginning the work of becoming yourself."- Anna Quindlen


Gina Perry said...

Lovely post Kelly. Funny, I took this morning off for myself, getting lost reading a book that has a similar message to your post today (Joe Coomer's Pocketful of Names). Good for you, taking a weekend to explore and renew. I want to see these little old ladies offering tissues (and the art too!)

Dee said...

Oh my goodness, I love Creature Comforts! I have to agree with the robin in the beginning. Now when it comes to great art, or wonderful art-then I get a little more narrow in my views. :)

I agree with you completely about the defending of cartoons/comics. It's seen as kind of the stepchild of the illustration world, isn't it? Now people are changing their tunes since graphic novels are hitting a chord with so many.

I think the thing that best illustrates what making art can be for the artist, is The Dot by Peter Reynolds. I would love to be able to go on a retreat such as your. I can just imagine all that inspiration seeping into your pores, filling you up, then leaping out into your own art. Wonderful post!

Christine O. said...

Where's the Clark? I don't think I've ever been there. I loves me some Sargent.

Kelly Light said...

Here's the link: