I interrupt your winter blog post silence to bring you an important message. Art is not a noun.
Constructivism, Cubism, Dada, De Stijl, Der Blaue Rider, Die Brücke, Expressionism, Fauvism, Figurativism, Futurism, Iconoclasm, Impressionism, Minimalism, Modernism, Neue Sachlichkeit, Performance Art, Photojournalism, Pictorialism, Pointallism, Representalism, Suprematism, Surrealism, are just some of the terms used to define name and catalog art movements of the past hundred years or so. PHEW! My head is spinning! Then there is “art speak”, the argot critics and some artists use to explain “art”. Pick up an art magazine some time and see if you aren’t quickly rushing to your dictionary only to find that many of the terms used to describe a piece are not in your dictionary.
All professions have their own language that to outsiders is at least somewhat unintelligible. It is however, a necessity. Experts in their fields need to be able to communicate using terms that have been imbued with specific meaning within their fields of knowledge. But creativity is not a narrow field. It’s a universal human endeavor. We are all artists, every single last one of us. Yeah, you too! It’s food, sex, and rock and roll, dahlin! It’s what we are and why we dominate the planet, albeit sometimes I’m not 100% convinced that we should. Nevertheless, we all create, which besides an opposable thumb, is what separates us from the rest of animate forms. Okay, some apes make “tools” to remove termites from holes in trees but they damn sure don’t make iPhones. So it irritates me when a group of people with a common economic self-interest decides that an object is or isn’t art. It’s all about money. They choose what is “art” is and create “artists” who can now sell their consecrated objects to wealthy collectors. Hurry, buy now! Get it before the artist become famous! The thing is, these experts rarely agree on what is or what isn’t “art”. A while back a woman in England decided to enter a painting in a prestigious art contest that her child painted. It was “open to all.” Her child’s painting won first prize. The art critic judges waxed eloquently in their argot sweaters about the piece, and how the “artist,” in order to paint such a piece, had to have been painting for many years.
I’d like to have seen the judges faces when the six-year-old showed up to claim the top prize.
Ever walked into an unfamiliar setting and observed an object that to you is so beautiful that you gasped and said, “Wow!”? Or maybe you were in your backyard and saw a butterfly so unusually colored that you stopped breathing for a second and groked in some new way just how stunning nature is in its beauty and complexity. That action, that breath, that flutter of your heart, that moment of insight are what art is. Art is a verb. It isn’t inherent in some inanimate object. It’s your response to that object. It’s the moment of insight, revelation, exhilaration of beauty, new knowledge; these are actions. Verbs. Art is the joy, the expanded knowledge, the insight and the exhilaration that can come from any object. So the good news is — stop reading or worrying about what the art experts say art is or isn’t. Buy it if it moves you and don’t worry if does or doesn’t go well with your sofa.
Art is in the heart of the holder.