Saturday, September 6, 2008

How art made me

I've subtitled this blog "Art musings and self-abusings," and my self-abuse is amply demonstrated by my various stabs at making art. So in the interests of living up to the name, let me post once without the art, as an "art musing."

As a person whose job is communications, I've long pondered questions like, "How is it that art came to be what it is?", "Why do I feel compelled to make art, even when it hurts?", "What is it about art that moves people so deeply (and some people don't seem moved at all)?" and "Is art important?"

At a personal level, I've answered all of these, but I know my answers don't apply to most people -- since most people don't go out of their way to make or view (capital "A") Art, they must feel differently about it than I. Nevertheless, despite the ambivalence that art is given in America, I see the world is full of art, and images, and objects that have clearly been designed with aesthetic considerations. As a marketer, I know that imagery is deeply affecting to the psyche -- at a deep, lizard-brain/subconscious level, marketers are able to manipulate feelings about products by using the right imagery.

One reason is the power of metaphor -- abstract thinking -- which is related to framing or how we view the world. Other reasons are being shown to me as brand new concepts in a series I've rented from my local video store, "How Art Made the World." My mind is being blown with each new episode.


Melinda said...

To be so permeated with art, seeing it everywhere, is to live it. Finding a particular image to translate (that bit of the tablet and ark) makes lifting the brush ever easier as we are dazzled by the world. Give yourself opportunity.

Karen said...

Your blog-- your reflections about the work that you wrestle with (as we all do!), makes me laugh, and to me, that is one reason that Art is Important and that Art moves people. It delights, maybe it's unexpected, and possibly wry. To borrow Melinda's word, that's dazzling.

p.s.- I kind of like encaustic I value that difference in pigment behavior.

Anonymous said...

Melinda -- thank you for the encouragement. Despite a kind of gnawing compulsive desire to make art, at times, it can be hard to pick up a brush and waste some paper.

Karen -- Happy to hear I made you laugh. I always liked what Al Franken said of his family, "In my house, the nicest thing you could do for someone was laugh at their joke."

Karen said...

You should see the tower of wasted paper/canvas/panels/etc. I have, just waiting to be worked over!

Anonymous said...

I constantly wrestle with thoughts about the importance of making art. I wonder, how can I make people care more? All I know is I HAVE to paint!

Here's a quote (rather long, sorry) I have pinned to my bulletin board in my studio;

"There is vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action. And because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and be lost.
It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable it compares with other expressions.
It is your business to... keep the channel open... Whether you choose to take an art class, keep a journal, record your dreams, dance your story, or live each day from your own creative course, above all else, keep the channel open!"
-Martha Graham-

Thanks for the heads up on 'How Art Made The World'. It's now in my queue on Netflix!

Marian Fortunati said...

Art is so different to different people just as each of our view of the world is different. Perhaps by viewing the art that someone makes we can see just a bit of their soul.

Edgar said...

Karen-- Your comment brings to mind my first drawing class. We'd do gesture drawings, and the instructor insisted that we use a new sheet for each ... this was to teach us that the paper wasn't precious, and so we wouldn't be so uptight about making that first mark. A harsh lesson economically for a poor student to learn, but very important for an artist. Unfortunately, the lesson is one I need to re-teach myself from time to time.

Silvina -- you said:
"All I know is I HAVE to paint!"
I would say that is a "calling," and Graham's quote describes it well. Sometimes I think Art, as it is practiced in modern society, is a profession which no one would choose willingly.

As for making more people care, the lack of passion for art is a distortion of our country as a whole. In Germany, I found that ordinary people both respected and cherished the public art that their government bought and displayed... so, it is a matter of inculcated values, not "nature." I believe firmly that it is not natural that a society be indifferent to art. Our brains aren't made to be indifferent to art (quite the contrary). Before watching the series, I thought that art was something that some of us were wired for, and some weren't. Now, I know that is largely untrue -- some are taught to repress it, but almost everyone is wired for it.

Marian -- your comment fits perfectly the conclusion I drew from the series: we need art to express an internal experience (or share knowledge)... without it, we are all isolated from each other's internal world, sharing only that which exists in the external, common to us all. In addition to the ability to think abstractly and metaphorically, art requires empathy to appreciate, an essential humanizing emotion (but one that is not present in 100% of people, or all cultures).

Deb Schmit said...

Hi Edgar,

Thought I'd chime in here. The questioning of "Why art?" I think haunts every artist. Especially when we are trying to make a living at it! But something writer Tom Harpole mentioned to me a few years back, gives me all the motivation I need to stay in the studio.
Art is something that, so far as we know, only our species intentionally creates. I'm not particularly religious but, doesn't that border somewhere on the divine?

I'll look for the video. Sounds intriguing!

Anonymous said...

Deb -- thanks for chiming in with your comment, and welcome!

What is an absolute world-view shaker for me from the series is the assertion in the title: that after hundreds of thousands of years as a stone-age culture, man suddenly began making art. And after art, soon came animal husbandry, then agriculture. The implication is that it may well have been the leap in ability to make art that created the conditions that made us what we are. Divine? I dunno ... but very good for the ego, if you are an artist.

We manufacture visions of culture every day, and society follows us into the cultural landscape we make. Where do you want to take the world?

Barbara Muir said...

Hi Edgar,

Thanks for recommending How Art Made The World. I watched some episodes on line, and was very impressed.

Superb blog.