Recently I posted this photo of a pepper on Facebook. It was sitting on the counter after Jon had finished making our salads... just sitting there staring at me. Yes, I am familiar with the phenomena of pareidolia, but I just found this humorous.
When I posted this, one of the comments that appeared was "You see art in everything". That statement took me back for a moment and made me think for a couple of days. Yes. Yes, I do see art in everything. It takes my breath away when I look around. I am amazed that that a brick and weed and the sun light can compose the perfect still life. I think the cigarette butt on the sidewalk is both a statement and a story - as well as an interesting composition. I am easily amused and impressed. The edge of that brick building against that blue sky is the perfection of complementary color. The fog that shrouds that parking structure, while letting the dried weed be in extreme focus, is more than I can comprehend replicating.
On the way home from my studio tonight, I saw this image in a bank drive through. Eat your heart out all you abstract expressionists. Frame it, put it in the east wing of the National Gallery and let the critics opine.
They can write a missive on the tension between the lines vs the splashes, the contrast of the darks and lights. The significance of the shapes, or maybe they would discourse over the need for a pop of color. They would check the title for political or social significance. And contextualize it based on the culture from which the artist came.
Was it art before or does it take validation or reproduction to be so?
As I thought more about this, I thought about the very real discomfort I feel when some says, or asks if, I am an artist. Okay. Whatever. If I need to be qualified or quantified, you can call me that.
But, as I have said before, I prefer "maker". I make stuff. It wasn't there. It didn't exist and I birthed it. I used my intellect, my heart and, occasionally, serendipity to do so. I made it.
As I thought more about this, I decided that, perhaps, the real aim of an "artist" is not the product they make, but the continued attempt to make others see the art that already exists around us. I make for my own sake. Maybe we are - or should be - translators. I do believe people called artists see and appreciate differently; just as scientists, or mathematicians, or musicians, or chefs view their world differently. Then we attempt to use our human talents, venues, media, and connections to try to get others to see what and how we saw (or tasted or figured). It is how we write. It is how we solve equations. It is how we bake.
Some of this we learn through academics. We spend hours and years in drawing classes not drawing the cube we know exists, but instead, the cube as we see it. Then we move to foreshortening in life drawing and still life compositions where we talk about the space between not just the objects. We learn to see with our eyes, not our head. Once we can do that, we start to understand how what we see exists for only a moment: a tilt of the head or the cloud momentarily over the sun can change the reality. How our specific moment and object of focus is a reality that no one else experiences in the same way.
We are constantly saying "CAN'T YOU SEE THIS TOO?" and "OH YOU MUST SEE THIS". The landscape painter tries to capture and explain the moment of clarity they had when looking out on nature. The portrait artist doesn't paint just the resemblance, but the inner person as they saw or felt it. The photographer captures a moment that perhaps only they had the acumen/patience/luck to witness. The abstracters capture essence or movement or the core of something that needs no subject.
I am about to stop my studio work for a period of six months. Part of this is because I have been having one of those "what does it all mean? Why do I do this? Who cares?" periods we all go through. I still have the compulsion to make, but at this time of my life, I am not trying to monetize, I am not trying make statements, I have no great affinity for mastering a specific craft or media, so what to do with this compulsion, and where is it best directed. I am thinking this chunk of driveway might be a clue.
My life and heart are full and amazed just walking down the street; nature or concrete or people or whatever is before me surpasses most of what I could ever make. I often feel that trying to make art is futile and the real goal I am striving for is just to see what is already out there.
So now to figure out how or if I can or should just improve my seeing, or if I also try to translate to others.
And if so, how.
Of course, Degas figured this our long before I had my own "ah ha" moment:
"Art is not what you see, but what you make others see."
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