The Art of Art.

At one point I owned a chain-sawed sculpture of a small bear (made out of a tree stump) that I bought on my way back from a women’s empowerment retreat held at a lodge in the Adironacks. The bear was standing upright, and one of his craggy paws had a notch in it that was supposed to hold a beer can. I think I ultimately put a a big crystal in it. Or maybe a bunch of flowers. It was a long time ago.
I bought it because I thought it was cool, and at the time I was into Mother Bear as one of my Totem Animals. I didn’t think the piece was really “art,” but I liked looking at it — it looked powerful and playful at the same time. And it looked great standing outside my apartment door for all of my passing neighbors to look at and wonder about. It had meaning for me on many, many levels.
I’ve admitted before that I’m pretty much an elitist about “art.” I believe that there has to be inspired craft imposed upon an artifact of creative expression before I can think of it as “art.” That’s why writing poetry, for me, takes a great deal of time and revisions. I’m not just trying to express myself creatively; I’m really trying to create a work of art.
Long before I owned the tree-stumped bear, I remember staying up half the night with a bunch of friends arguing whether the most important thing about art is the process or the product. If it’s the process, the actual act of creation, then we might as well destroy all of the old art that’s hanging around in museums. Of course, I argued the other side: great art should be shared with those who also find inspiration and delight in the product. That doesn’t diminish the value of any kind of creative act, but we can all engage in creative acts and we can enjoy the creative acts of others. But that it doesn’t mean that what has been created is necessarily good “art.”
On the other hand:
Don

8 thoughts on “The Art of Art.

  1. Perhaps you’ll remember a longer-ago evening when I played devil’s advocate with other friends by espousing that every 10 years we should burn all art created to that point or in the past 10 so we could all start fresh?

  2. Actually, that’s exactly the conversation I meant. I forgot that you brought up the 10-year thing, but, yes, that became a really heated discussion, if I remember correctly. (Even though it took place about 35 years ago, it’s surprising how well I do remember it.)

  3. It sounds like it’s more craft than art but there’s nothing wrong with craft! One of my prized possessions belonged to my late mum-in-law – her favorite walking stick, with the knob at the end carved into the shape of an otter’s head. I think it’s beautiful, and of course it’s totally utilitarian… my definition of craft at its best!

  4. i just wrote an article about this topic for a local coffee house newsletter i publish-A Muse Me. Chris’ blog entries regarding art were the inspiration.
    my conclusion was that if the creator of the painting, image, photo, sculpture, poem, novel, or street art, calls it art, it is. the perception of the rest of world is just that, and can unfortunately silence an artist’s voice.
    there are a great many people who didn’t think Picasso was an artist-thank god he did! he believed he was an artist, so he kept producing. Henry Miller’s books were banned, as were Anais Nin’s, but they believed they were artists, so they kept writing. van gogh couldn’t sell a painting. kandinsky and the other artists of the Russian modernist movement were banned by their own government, but they didn’t stop creating.
    it’s easy now for us to say that, of course, they were all artists, but, would we have been so willing to say so had we lived when they did?
    ++
    p.s. interestingly, after i finished writing the article, i read the post of Chris’ that you linked here, Elaine. he refers to what he does as artwork. i’m with him. it is.
    ++

  5. Elayne — that happens to be the kind of art I prefer as well — wearable, usable — the kind that was really the orgins of human-created art to begin with — the marriage of art and craft — creating a unique aesthetic form to frame the function.
    “Artists-at-heart” create because every thing else to them is sawdust. (That’s something “myrln” once said to me in another context.)

  6. yes! form and function! the pinnacle of that movement, to me, was the ‘mission style’ architecture, furniture, and textile design, from the early 1900’s. The Gamble House in Pasadena, California, is in my opinion, the perfection of this art form.
    ++

  7. art is a state of mind. artists are born, not made… we are the “misguided” souls that live in our own heads…and we are, not because we do, but because we believe… we are because we know. what makes work art is not a technique, skill set, or attitude. art is produced by artists as slouched posture is produced by the exhausted.

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