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You Have to Be Ready for Inspiration

Sunday, 9. June 2019 23:57

Several weeks ago, I was talking with a friend about it being time to write the next blog post. He asked, “Where do you get your inspiration?” I don’t recall my answer, but it was lame, I’m sure. The real answer is that it comes from all sorts of places. Sometimes it’s something I see, or something I hear or something I read. Or it could be any one of those that sets off a chain reaction of thoughts that ends in what might be called inspiration.

Then as I was thinking about inspiration, this week serendipitously brought Austin Kleon’s blog post “It’s not inside you trying to get out, it’s outside you trying to get in,” which posits that inspiration comes from outside. We do not have books, or songs or photographs or paintings or poems inside us. Rather they exist in the universe and come to us for expression. He quotes artists as divers as Nick Cave, Tom Waits, Michael Jackson, and Henry David Thoreau to make his point. Not only do inspirations come from outside, but if we are not receptive, they go elsewhere to find acceptance.

There are at least two implications contained in this idea. The first is that we creatives are not really creators. We don’t originate the ideas, the inspirations. Rather, we in some way prepare ourselves so that we are ready to receive the idea when it comes. Then we snatch it out of the air or ether or wherever it is and write it or paint it or sculpt it or do whatever we do. Cave as much as says this in his advice to a “blocked” songwriter.

The second implication is contained in the first. It is that we as artists must make ourselves ready to seize inspiration when it does arrive. As I have written before, inspiration is not something that we can always count on. Sometimes it comes; sometimes it doesn’t. What is important is that we are ready, which means that we show up, we exercise discipline, we do the work—every day. And that showing up and doing the work readies us for inspiration. As Kleon puts it in one of his blackout poems:

the Muse

is ready to

surprise me

if

i

show   up every day

and

say,

“Wanna hang out?”

Art is, at least in part, about making connections and seeing patterns. The inspiration triggers a set of ideas which ends in our making those connections and seeing those patterns. And if we don’t figure out a way to ready ourselves, then the inspirations fly by unnoticed. Connections don’t get made; patterns don’t get recognized.  We call that “being blocked.” Then we often bear down, which closes us off even more from the universe, and then we really are creatively blocked.

It’s not really magical, although it may look and sound that way. It may not even be mystical, although some would argue with that. It is simply doing the work that is required to be creative and doing it regularly, putting ourselves in a mental and physical place to be receptive to our own flow of ideas and not thinking so hard in a single direction that we close out other possibilities. Only when we are open can a new idea develop. Then all we have to do is recognize it and do something with it.

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Let Them See Your Vision

Sunday, 28. April 2019 23:06

Artists working in the style of other artists is a fairly common practice that I have written about before, specifically about the uses of imitation and artistic theft (also here). Imitation and artistic theft are usually considered ways to develop as an artist: we imitate a style to learn from it or we take from here and there and make a new thing out of it. Perhaps the resulting work is derivative, but it also has some originality in it. So I was surprised and more than a little dismayed to discover how widespread the practice of copying theatre productions as closely as possible with little-to-no new input is.

The internet has made it really easy to find out what the hot shows are and to see enough of them to reproduce the style, the set, the costumes, and at least some of the choreography. What some directors are now doing is gathering that information about show that is currently popular and then attempting to produce that same experience on their home stages. This happened, for example, after the 2013 revival of Pippin, which was based on a circus metaphor. As soon as the show became available for non-professional production, circus-based Pippins popped up all over the place. Many productions attempted to reproduce the world of the circus that had been seen on Broadway; others just took the circus metaphor and production style. It was as if there were no other way to produce this particular show.

And this happens again and again. So what we are beginning to see in non-professional and academic theatre is copy-cat theatre. Very often the first move of the director or designer or choreographer is to the internet to see how others have done the show—so they can reproduce that. Some directors will go to New York to review shows, again to see how they’re done. Perhaps it’s an attempt to cash in on the national reputation of this or that show. Or perhaps it’s the result of artistic insecurity. Or perhaps it just a time-saver; everybody is incredibly busy. No matter the reason, it’s still reproducing someone else’s vision.

The same thing happens in other arts. “That film was terribly successful, so let’s make one like that,” or “that movie was successful; let’s make a sequel.” But in film, even if it’s a copy-cat film, it’s not an attempt at exact reproduction. And the same is true in other arts. If an artist paints too much like another, more successful artist, it’s called at best homage and at worst plagiarism.

Usually what happens is a painter or sculptor or photographer will follow a style or trend. This allows the artist to become part of the trend, which is useful commercially, but retain his/her own vision within that trend. Indeed, Creative Live Blog just this week published an article entitled “7 New Wedding & Portrait Photography Trends for 2019.” The article cites some examples, then distills the trend to generalities and suggests some ways photographers might participate in the trend. And no doubt some photographers will read this article and follow some of the paths, but to do so successfully, they will have to insert their own vision.

And inserting our own vision is what all of us as artists need to do. Those of us who became artists because we wanted to put our vision out into the world have no trouble with this. However, others of us came to work in the arts for other reasons; we are the ones who need to allow ourselves to go beyond copying, regardless of our insecurities or time constraints. We need to let our audiences see our own visions.

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You’re Always Auditioning

Monday, 15. April 2019 0:08

Auditions suck. Just ask any actor. For that matter, ask any director. The problem from an acting point of view is to demonstrate that you are the best choice to perform a given role with—if it’s a generous audition—a couple of prepared monologues and a cold read against people you’ve never met. In just a few minutes you have somehow convince a director that after you’ve learned the lines and had some time to work on the character, you will be able to bring this character to life on the stage. It’s an impossible task. And it’s just as bad from the director’s point of view.

This is why directors use other means to help them make their casting decisions. Some even use casting directors, who also use methodologies in addition to the actual audition. Directors will call other directors and their friends to find out about potential actors. They go to shows and observe the actors, how they work, how they perform, what they might be capable of. They network. They invite actors they think might be able to do the job to come in. They interview. Then they hold an audition, sometimes to see if what they thought was true really is true.

Directors are in the judging business; it’s what they do. And they mostly do it all the time. The wise actor learns, hopefully sooner rather than later, that s/he is always auditioning.  Audition time is not limited to the time the actor is actively auditioning.

Here are a couple of stories to illustrate. A good while back an actor I know went to an audition. She is a bubbly out-going person and a man walked by as she was getting out of her car. They had a brief conversation about the difficulty of finding parking spaces. Then they met again in the elevator that she was taking to the interview/audition. Again they had a brief up-beat conversation. They both got off at the same floor but went in different directions. She checked in for the interview, waited a few moments and was ushered into the interview room. Behind the desk sat the man with whom she had just made friends. Her formal audition went well, perhaps because she had already auditioned and didn’t know it. She got the job.

The other story didn’t turn out quite as well. We were casting a musical; when I say we, I mean I was the director; additionally there was the musical director and the choreographer. We were doing an open callback, which is to say that all those called back were in the room. There was one actor we had pretty much decided would be the second lead, but we wanted the callback to confirm that decision. The actor that we had in mind was in the room when we got there, as were a number of other actors. As we got settled, we noticed that the actor we had in mind was not only overly loud and boisterous for the situation, but he was displaying an inordinate amount of egocentricity. His behavior was offensive and unacceptable. Each of us decided individually (we discovered later—we did not discuss it at the time) that we would rather not put up with that behavior and attitude for the rehearsal period. Fortunately, there was another actor there whose callback was excellent; he was the actor who got the role.

Behavior and attitude before and after the actual audition matter. In fact they matter all the time. It’s something actors need to know.  And it’s not just in the theatre that this happens. Wedding photographers, for example, are auditioning every time they meet potential clients.  Even when they are shooting, a potential client is watching and judging—deciding if this is the person they want to do their wedding. Graphic artists are always auditioning for the next project. Painters are always auditioning for the next commission or the next show or both at the same time. Writers audition for readership for their next book. Both stage and film directors are always auditioning for producers. No one escapes.

Like stage directors, people who seek creative services ask others; they watch, they evaluate—before they ever get around to calling for an appointment.

Not only actors, but every creative person who sells his/her work is always auditioning; there is no down time. It is something that we all need to be aware of—all the time.

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Want to Be Famous? Make Some Friends

Sunday, 3. March 2019 23:03

We’ve all heard the saying “it’s not what you know; it’s who you know.” It turns out that in the case of artists, it’s not what you know or who you know; it’s how many who’s you know. In a 2018 study of abstract artists’ fame, Paul Ingram and Mitali Banerjee determined that cosmopolitan social networking was a better indicator of fame than either creativity or originality. Essentially, the study found that artists generally labeled “abstract” were famous in direct proportion to the size of their circle of friendship, with more fame attributed to those whose groups of friends were multinational.

A thorough discussion of this study by Casey Lesser can be found at artsy.net. In this article, Lesser posits that not only were diverse networks important as indicators of fame, but that they were also a “source of creativity” and had the additional benefit of providing the artist with a “cosmopolitan identity.”

Much of the data for this study originated with a 2012 exhibition about the birth of abstraction at New York’s Museum of Modern Art. MoMA has provided an interactive diagram of who knew whom that clearly makes the point that the most connected artists—in this case Pablo Picasso and Wassily Kandinsky—were the most famous.

And lest we think that this study represents an anomaly, remember that Emily Dickinson did not become famous until relatives who had much wider social networks worked to get her poems published. It is also notable that people who are famous in one art can let it be known that they are involved in another art and instantly be more famous in that second field than many who have worked in the field for a lifetime, but who have had much smaller networks of friends and acquaintances. For example, Jim Carrey and Jonathan Winters are two comedian/actors who have become almost as famous for their paintings as for their performing.

So what does that mean to us?  It means, simply, that all the hype about establishing a diverse social network isn’t hype, it’s the path to recognition. Of course, there is no indication as to whether today’s social networks, e.g. Linkedin, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, et al constitute networks of “friends” as the term is used in this study, i.e. a group of people who actually know each other. One would guess that the more active one is in any given forum, the more likely s/he is to be able to call it a real group of friends.

Please note also that the more diverse the group of friends, the more likely it is to indicate potential recognition. Also, internationality counts.

In concrete terms, this means that we must “meet new people and network across professional industries in order to open [ourselves] up to career opportunities and advancement….We won’t become famous in a vacuum and should seek to diversify our social circles.” And although we may not want to be movie-star famous, we probably do want to have our work seen and known. That, in itself, is a kind of fame. To achieve that we must not only maintain social networks, but we probably need to curate our followers and followings, so that we come to actually know those with whom we interact.

And we must not forget personal, in-person networking, which is probably the most potent form of networking going. If Ingram and Banerjee’s study is to be believed, in order to have our work known to the world we must enlarge our circle of friends. Today would be a good day to start.

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How Much Skill Do You Need?

Monday, 18. February 2019 0:20

An old article on the hyperrealistic work of Leng Jun circulated through my news reader this week. Hyperrealism is probably the epitome of drawing and is practiced by only a few artists. And while such work is interesting, even amazing, it seems to exist for no other reason than itself. Perhaps that is enough.

The real question in my mind is how much skill does an artist need? Certainly not all artists have to draw as well as Leng Jun or any of the other hyperrealists to create their work, but how well do they need to draw? Do they need to be able to draw at all? It seems that if one is a visual artist, drawing is a basic skill. Even Banksy has an opinion on the matter: “All artists are prepared to suffer for their work but why are so few prepared to learn to draw?” (from his book Wall and Piece).

For that matter, how much skill does any artist need? The intuitive answer is “as much as s/he can get.” But is that the right answer? Certainly every artist needs some skill, but does very artist need as much drawing skill as Leng Jun? Some would say “no” and cite successful artists who seem to have excelled without being able to draw. Some would even use Picasso as an example; those, however, would have demonstrated that they were not familiar with his early work. The man could draw, perhaps not on the level of Leng Jun, but certainly competently.

Others, of course, would say “yes” and point to that exact same early work, arguing that had he not been able to draw well, Picasso would never have gotten to the pinnacle of his success. But did Picasso need the extreme technical mastery that Leng Jun’s work requires? I would argue that that artists do need competency in basic skills; however, they need not be “the best” at any one skill unless their specialty demands that.

Readers of this blog know that I am a fan of John Chamberlain’s sculpture but probably do not know that I have had welding training (I do not claim to be an expert, but I am competent). I have examined Chamberlain’s welds on a number of his works carefully and can verify that he was not the best welder on the planet. He did not need to be; he needed to have enough competence at welding to assemble his sculptures securely enough that they could be transported. And that he did; he had no reason to reach the level of competence expected of, say, a gas pipeline welder.

So the answer to the question, how much skill does an artist need? is that s/he needs a level of competency that allows him/her to produce his/her work without first having to improve his skill level. Certainly, artists-in-training should seek to master skills basic to their art, but have no real need to go beyond that. There is much more learn about to creating art than an extreme skill level. There is creativity, thought, expressiveness, and ability to communicate just to mention a few. To do the sort of work that he wants to do, Leng Jun needs a very high level of drawing skill; other artists, doing other sorts of drawing/painting do not need that level of expertise. For example, LeRoy Neiman needed drawing skill to produce his paintings, but because his work was far more expressionistic, he did not need the same level of that particular skill; it did require, however, other things.

So as we prepare ourselves for our next projects, it is well for us to remember that we need not be absolute experts in every skill that our work requires; we do, however, need a level of expertise that allows us to create artifacts to carry our ideas to our audience, with maybe a little left over.

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But I Followed the Recipe

Monday, 4. February 2019 1:52

How many times have we heard that? How many times have we said that? Whether it concerns our grandmother’s blueberry cobbler or a new cocktail, we often find that even though we followed the recipe exactly, it doesn’t taste quite the same. And it won’t—ever. The reason is because every chef, cook, mixologist, or bartender puts his/her own personal touch on everything s/he makes. It can’t be helped. This is why you sometimes order the same drink at the same restaurant, but it doesn’t taste like the one you had the last time you were there: different bartender.

The same thing is true of art.  We can’t not put our signature on the things we create. We can try to eliminate any vestige of our own ideas from the work in order to create “true” reproductions, but it is very unlikely that we will succeed. No matter how much we study those we consider “masters” or how precisely we copy their style, we will never exactly reproduce their images or sculptures or plays or sonnets. And even if we could, we would have only succeeded in making a copy of someone else’s original.

If we take another tack, we might determine the formulae that others use in creating their work, but, when we apply that one of those formulae, like the cook or bartender with someone else’s recipe, the results will be different. And that is not a bad thing, for no matter how we might try to copy, we are sure to be disappointed; nature almost demands that our work be unique.

This is not to say that we can learn nothing from studying the work of others. Indeed, we can learn much. Writers often say that to be successful, we must be readers first. We can even imitate what we study, and that too is informative; in attempting to reproduce the works we encounter, we learn much about technique and about the implementation of that technique. But while it is likely that our “reproductions” will not be perfect, it is equally likely that as learning tools they are unparalleled.

And having learned from certain artists, we move on, for we find that there is an unending stream of artists whose work is worth studying. And once we move past imitation, what we then produce can sometimes reflect what we have studied, much as we often find bartenders creating unique drinks that are a riffs on old standards. This is a practice often observed in the work of jazz musicians. There is no reason our work cannot do the same.

But ultimately, we have to take what we have learned and apply it to our own original creations: work that is not a copy, not an homage, not a riff. And that is just as well, because no matter how meticulously we attempt to use some else’s recipe, in the end—unless we develop skills in forgery—we produce our own work. Better to embrace our individuality from the beginning. We may study others, absorb the lessons, but finally we must work from our own recipes to create our best work.

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Advice to the Artist

Sunday, 23. December 2018 22:39

Every once in a while there occurs that happy accident when there is a confluence of ideas that arrive from different sources at the same time. For me, this very thing happened this week. First, I read Neil Gaiman’s Art Matters: Because Your Imagination Can Change the World, a short little book illustrated by Chris Riddell. Then I had a very interesting and informative conversation with a university art teacher who works primarily in sculpture and print-making. Finally, I ran across Jerry Saltz’s “How to Be an Artist: 33 rules to take you from clueless amateur to generational talent (or at least help you live life a little more creatively)” which appeared on the Vulture.com’s web site and which originally appeared in the November 26, 2018 issue of New Yorker Magazine.

Saltz advises would-be artists to tell their own stories and to do so with their own voices and to not worry about being understood; he compares making art to “getting naked in front of someone else for the first time.” He goes on to tell artists to put ideas and emotions into their work, to spend lots of time practicing skills and producing and to be ready for failure. He suggests that real art is done for love, not money. He has a number of very specific suggestions and very interesting exercises.

The conversation with the art teacher was about whether in teaching art one concentrates on the abstract aspects of art, i.e. that art can give meaning to people’s lives, that artists can influence people, that art can, in fact, change the world, or concentrates on the craft aspects of making a print or brush technique or skills in handling a camera or sculpting practice. He said that he tries to combine the two in that the artist has to have the craft in order to put forward the artist’s ideas. He went on to say that one of the most difficult things he had encountered lately was getting students to use their own voices and tell their own unique stories with their art rather than relying on making “safe” work that keeps them snug in their comfort zone.

Gaiman’s book is really a collection of four short pieces about the how and why of making art. Interestingly, he says some of the same things as Saltz and the art teacher. For example, he thinks that art is about putting forward ideas, and that those ideas, whether they are true are not, have the right to exist and can (sometimes) change the world. He discusses the power of imagination. Gaiman notes that the artist should expect to fail, but should keep working; he believes that the best art is not done for money. He also discusses finding one’s own voice and telling one’s own story. He notes that “the moment you may be starting to get it right” is “the moment that you feel, just possibly, you’re walking down the street naked…showing too much of yourself.”

From these three encounters, I have derived seven pieces of art advice which seem valid no matter where someone is in his/her art journey:

  1. Try new things.
  2. Be prepared to fail.
  3. Tell your own story with your own voice.
  4. Put ideas and emotions into your work.
  5. Keep producing no matter what anyone says.
  6. Understand that your work exposes you to your audience.
  7. Make art because you want or need to, not because you expect payment.

There are certainly more, but these seven seemed to be the most important. I would encourage you to read these articles and others for yourself and talk with as many art teachers as you can; then develop your own list.

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Professionalism

Monday, 10. December 2018 0:16

This weekend I got to experience two strikes. Strike, for those of you who don’t speak theatre, means to take down the set. It might be to move the set to another location, as in the case of a traveling show, or it might mean simply to tear down the set and clear the stage. The latter I witnessed—twice. The first was the Saturday night strike of a play that closed. The concern was to get the stage clear for a concert on Sunday afternoon. Then I got to watch the strike of the concert (although I’m not sure musicians use the term strike). Both of these events happened in a collegiate setting, and although some of the musicians were union musicians, no unions were involved in either strike.

What was obvious in both strikes was the professional attitude of some participants and the less-than-professional attitude of others. Almost everyone involved had participated in a strike before, so the very few who were complete novices were noted and not considered in this observation. It turned out that those whom I labeled as having a professional attitude, were, in fact professionals, or had, at least worked professionally prior to this weekend. And that fact was evident in their approach to the work at hand.

What marked the professionals was pace and persistence. They worked at a consistent pace, neither too slow nor too fast. They were obviously concerned with safety, but they were more concerned with getting the job done. Unlike others who were less practiced, they did not stop to chat or stand around waiting to be directed or play at the job. They moved very smoothly (and cheerfully) from task to task to task. (Let me reiterate: almost all of the participants were experienced, so the attitude of the professional was available to all. All, however, did not adopt this approach.)

And that attitude, the on-going ability to stay focused and on-task, is, I think, one of the hallmarks of the real professional: the ability to keep working whether there is the possibility for immediate reward or not. It’s an attitude that involves a commitment to doing the work. Strike is part of the gig, so you do it; it may not be the most enjoyable part of the job, but you do it.

It’s the same kind of commitment to doing the work that many, many artists in a variety of arts talk about. It’s the showing up—repeatedly to do the work. It’s the development of a routine that requires that you do so many pages per day or standing in front of the easel on a regular basis or spending so many hours a day working at your art.

And that commitment is, to my mind, one of the marks of a true professional in the arts: one who works at his/her art consistently and repeatedly, one who puts in the time, no matter whether a particular task is enjoyable or not. There are, of course, other characteristics of the true professional, but this is one of the most important. All it takes to be called a professional is to get paid for your art.  Professionalism, on the other hand, is not just a matter of getting paid, not just a matter of talent; it is a matter of attitude and approach.

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Oh, I See What You Did There

Monday, 29. October 2018 0:39

Earlier this week, I watched the last episode of the third season of The Man in the High Castle. Immediately I thought of what a good job they did setting up Season 4, which will undoubtedly begin with explanations of some of the questions raised by this episode. A bit later I realized that the writers and showrunners had also set up an ending that could also serve as an ending of the series if that should be the way the winds blew at Amazon Studios. Somehow these artists had managed to wrap up Season 3 with an all-purpose ending, which only speaks to their level of skill and artistry.

Much the same sort of thing could be said about the very last episode of The Americans, which I watched earlier this year. While the episode was decidedly the end of the series and nearly a perfect ending at that, there were enough questions left unanswered that could be developed into at least three spin-offs. Again, the artistry and skill levels were of the highest.

Then I began to wonder how these shows impacted their intended audiences. What I mean is that I, like all artists trained in the US, and unlike the intended audience for these television shows, have spent hours analyzing works of art. It’s something I teach my students to do. We dissect plays to see how they work, how the characters are constructed, how the plot is put together, why the ending works—or doesn’t.

As far as I know, other arts do the same. Visual artists analyze the work of older artists to determine exactly what it is that causes them to be great. Musicians learn much the same thing—how the structure of a musical piece works, how the melody resolves itself to lead to listener satisfaction. Photographers certainly do it, eager to determine the lighting and composition plans, determined to understand why a photograph works on the emotional level that it does. We want to know not only what the artist did but how s/he achieved whatever it was that s/he achieved.

And then it becomes habit. We cannot experience a work of art without analyzing. And this is particularly true if the work is not of the highest quality. Even the smallest interruption to engagement causes those of us who are trained to start wondering why we are disengaged, and from that point on we shift into full analysis mode. The outstanding production values and quality of acting in the two television shows mentioned allowed me to hold my analysis until those episodes were over. Otherwise, I would have begun evaluation while the show was going on, further distancing myself from the work.

The point of this, you ask? The point is the acknowledgement that we will never view art in the same way as our audience, who, for the most part, are not trained to analyze and evaluate art the same way we are. Absent training in appreciation, analysis et al, they are likely to see something far different from what we see. Knowing this, we must be very careful in evaluating our own work and establishing the criteria we use to judge what pieces we put before an audience.

Because we know what we did and how we did it, we must return to the piece again and again with new eyes, delaying analysis so we can see what the audience is likely to see thereby to better judge the audience’s reaction. Then we can use that information to make our work even better.

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Ambiguity in Art, Part 2*

Monday, 15. October 2018 1:12

In his book, Making Sense of Movies, Robert Henry Stanley says that at the end of the silent era, successful American movies followed six rules, one of which was that movies should be comprehensible and unambiguous. But times change. Now we have sound, and color, and more than a handful of ambiguous movie endings. And if you look at any of the lists, you will discover that these are very well-known and respected movies. Things seem to have changed.

And this change is not just a recent phenomenon. Many critics consider the ending of Casablanca to be at least a little ambiguous. Going even farther back, the enigmatic and ambiguous smile in the 515-year–old Mona Lisa still intrigues scholars and critics today. As a matter of fact, the more we look, the more ambiguity we find in art. For example, most of the paintings of Edward Hopper and Jack Vettriano rely on ambiguity, as do the sculptures of John Chamberlain. Sally Mann’s photography can be ambiguous, and so can the work of Edward Albee and Sam Shepherd. The lyrics and poems of Leonard Cohen can be filled with ambiguity.

So while ambiguity exists in much art and has for centuries, it certainly isn’t found in all art, probably not in a majority of art. My guess would be that ambiguity would found in only a small minority of art works. (Look at how few movies endings are marked as “ambiguous.”) One can speculate that there are two reasons for this: (1) the majority of audience members still expect art to follow Robert Henry Stanley’s rule and be “comprehensible and unambiguous.” Things are easier that way: the audience members know exactly what the artist means and often express their appreciation with their pocketbooks.

(2) The other reason that ambiguity is found in a minority of art works is that ambiguity is difficult to do and must be controlled. If the artist is not careful, ambiguity can easily slip into vagueness and confusion, which is not at all appealing. So ambiguity in art must be handled delicately so that just enough comes through to the audience members to make them think and talk about the work, but not so much that the work becomes obscure.

Am I suggesting that we find a way to introduce ambiguity into our art (if it isn’t already there)? I think that depends on the artist’s goals. If the artist is interested in selling as many pieces as possible or making a very strong statement, perhaps not. Americans seem to spend more for art that is unambiguous. Clint Eastwood’s movies are not ambiguous. Banksy is not ambiguous, nor is Neil Simon. These artists are very direct and do very good work. They have been rewarded by their audiences.

If, on the other hand, the artist wants to let the audience member participate a little more, s/he might be less direct, perhaps leave things in the gray rather than black and white by introducing some controlled ambiguity. It may not make the work better, but it will make it start different sorts of conversations and appeal to a different audience, albeit a minority.

So it comes down to how the artist wants his/her work perceived and to which audience s/he want to appeal. And while I am a fan of ambiguity in art, I have to acknowledge that it doesn’t work for all sorts of art or in all situations. So I think the artist must take into consideration the sort of art he is making and the audience for whom s/he is making it.

 

*”Part 1” was entitled “Brain Clutter and Ambiguity in Art” and can be found here.

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