Post from November, 2015

The Line Between Art and Not

Sunday, 29. November 2015 23:56

Where is the line between Instagram and fine art photography?

Where is the line between popular fiction and literature? (Anyone who says that popular literature has nothing to say about the human condition has read neither Dickens nor King.)

Where is the line between flash mob and ballet?

Where is the line between “tired businessman” theatre and real dramatic art? (We are taught that Shakespeare’s work competed with bear-baiting for the tired businessmen of his day.)

Where is the line between greeting card or newspaper verse and poetry?

Where is the line between sketches, illustrations, and cartoons and visual fine art? (And if there is a line on which side of it do Ralph Steadman and Banksy fall?)

Where are the lines between pornography, pinup art, erotic art, artistic nude, and fine art?

Where is the line between commercial film and art film? (So where do Jim Jarmusch and Woody Allen belong?)

Where is the line between movie music and symphony? (Then where does John Williams fit in?)

Where is the line between professional wrestling and performance art?

Macedonio “The Mace” Guerra speaking in Kristoffer Diaz’s Pulitizer finalist play, The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity says there is none. He speaks passionately about the art that is professional wrestling. Luis Galindo, the actor who portrayed Macedonio in the Stages Repertory Theatre production of the play says, “Ultimately, the play is about art.” Even Wikipedia recognizes professional wrestling as a performing art. There is no question that it is performance, but where does it fall in the art continuum? Where are the lines?

Even though the postmodernists said that there is no distinction between high and low art, many who are in the arts act as though the opposite were true. Perhaps it is because many of us in the arts are snobs. Maintaining this position is becoming more and more a difficult in a world where everything is open to investigation with the click of a mouse.

It seems to me that the question is not so much where the line is, but whether there really is a line at all. Is it all just about labels?

Penn Jillette says in Every Day is an Atheist Holiday, “Ron Jeremy has the same job as Picasso and Bach. I know that the mall Santa is the same as Bob Dylan and Katharine Hepburn.” He seems to equate art and show business and says, paraphrasing Billy West, that there is only one show business and all artists and performers are in it.

Of course there is art that is more sophisticated than other art. There is art that encompasses what it means to be human in a much more profound way than other art. There is art that is more expensive than other art.

So perhaps the line should not be between high and low, but between more and less sophisticated or more and less profound or even more and less valuable.

However, the fact that some art is more something-or-other than other art does not prevent the less something-or-other art from being art from speaking to people. Perhaps those people have less education, less sophistication, less money. That does not mean that art that appeals to them is worthless. It just means that those of us who spend our time thinking about art have to think about it all, not just the parts that we think are worthy or the parts that we like.

Category:Aesthetics, Creativity | Comment (0) | Author:

A Matter of Inspiration

Sunday, 15. November 2015 23:57

Inspiration, artistic or otherwise, is a gift from the universe. Dictionary.com says that to inspire is “to fill with an animating, quickening, or exalting influence.” I have written a couple of times about the necessity of discipline and the futility of waiting for inspiration (here and here). I have also written about dealing with serendipity or inspiration when the universe presents it (here and here).

But then recently I ran across an article in the October issue of Rangefinder Magazine by Amanda Jane Jones. In the article Jones says that she has been inspired by Carissa Gallo’s “ongoing study in color.” Although Jones briefly discusses what it is about Gallo’s work that is inspiring, she does not say how Gallo’s work inspires her or in what way this inspiration manifests itself.

As implied earlier, I am a believer in not waiting for inspiration, but rather in doing the work in a disciplined fashion that invites both serendipity and inspiration. But Jones’ short article caused me to consider the nature of inspiration and consider how it works and how to handle it when it pops up. Here are a few possibilities:

  1. Sometimes a visual, verbal, and/or aural experience will set off the idea for a similar project, probably in a different medium or from a different viewpoint from the inspiring piece. This, of course, is considered stealing by some. (That has been discussed here and here.) The similarities in this case can range from subject matter to treatment.
  2. Another possibility is to develop a project that essentially contradicts the original inspiring piece. This certainly is not stealing and may or may not make reference to the original. Certainly if the piece is solid, it can stand on its own without obvious reference to its counter-example.
  3. Of course, the artist can always go meta and make a piece about the original piece. Such a piece can either acknowledge the original or not.
  4. One of the better choices, at least in my opinion, is to use the inspiring piece as a jumping off place, creating a completely new project that bears little resemblance to the original. It just happens that the artist would not have thought of it had he/she not experienced the original. This choice can encompass everything from thinking that the subject of the original needs further development to developing an extension of the techniques used in the original.
  5. Yet another situation might be that the original piece simply triggers an original idea. This is usually a result of a quirk in thinking—an association of thoughts unique to the artist. Again the circumstances are that the artist would not have made the mental connections had he/she not experienced the original.

This list is certainly not exhaustive; there are many more possibilities, but these represent what I consider to be the primary ones. Along the way from inspiration to finished artifact, there can be many twists and turns resulting in work that is far removed from that which inspired it.

What inspires us is simply that which resonates with us in a way that connections can be made with our own process of creativity. And while we cannot wait on inspiration to create, we can, through discipline or ritual or habit, attempt to maximize our openness so that when the universe presents us with a gift, we are able to take full advantage of it.

Category:Creativity | Comment (0) | Author:

It Took an External Nudge

Sunday, 1. November 2015 23:36

Many of us have multiple to-do lists. Mine consist of day-job lists, theatre lists, photography lists, household chores lists, shopping lists, and others. Needless to say, many of the tasks fail to get done in a timely manner and continue to occupy a place on the list—sometimes for weeks or months. Periodic reviews always result in the same “Oh yeah, that.” And “I need to get to that.” And they continue to occupy a place on the list while newer, more pressing matters get take precedence.

Then something happens and that item soars to the top of the list. Recently I had such an incident. One item on my list was “finish web site.” The project was a complete makeover of my photography site, which, as the to-do item indicated, had not been finished. The major changes were complete and what was left was tedious and time-consuming and not very interesting. So it got put off.

Then early last week I got a text from a friend telling me that she had shown some of my work to a person who came with an impressive set of credentials and who had indicated sufficient interest that she was planning to look at the website later and that she might get in touch with me. Photography inquires had been slow, so this lifted my spirits considerably. Then I remembered that item on my photography list. Quickly I grabbed the nearest device, my iPhone, to check the site—I wasn’t sure exactly where I was in the process of updating. The first thing I saw on the opening page of the mobile version of the site was an error that I had not known was there.

As soon as I could, I sat down at my desktop and began to find and fix first errors and then obvious unfinished work. In just a few hours, I had the site looking pretty good. The errors that had shocked me were repaired in all versions of the site. A couple of galleries had been activated, and some images had been resized. It no longer looked broken or incomplete.

But it wasn’t finished. As I had worked to fix things, I discovered other things that I wanted to tweak—and I will, but at a less urgent pace. The item is still on the list, but it’s priority has shifted because I became aware of what I should have known already—that the web site is all some people know of my work, and, more importantly, I never know who might be looking at it at any time, so it needs to look as good as possible—all the time.

The larger lesson is that an artist should not have to wait for an external nudge to do what needs doing. We teach and are taught that we must learn to create without external validation, that we must be able to evaluate the quality of our own work without waiting for outside praise or criticism. The same thing applies to putting our work out there. Another friend of mine holds that art demands an audience. Given that, we must motivate ourselves to let our potential audience see our best work presented in the best possible way. And we must keep current; we must make it a practice to nudge ourselves.

Category:Audience, Marketing, Presentation | Comment (0) | Author:

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