What Is Art, Anyway?

I’ve been fond of saying that “I’m not an artist; I just draw stuff.”  Almost as regularly someone tells me that I am an artist and they can’t understand why I say that.

The basis for my comment is more a defense mechanism than anything else.  I’ve tired of having so-called ‘art’ people, who can’t draw and don’t feel that artists need be able to do so, try to ‘advise’ me about my sketching.  It’s not that I don’t want to learn – I do.  I’m constantly reading, listening, learning.  By my calculation, in another 20-30 years, I may begin to figure it all out.  Until then I’ll just keep trying.

But I’m not interested in people telling me that I need to “loosen up” and “just let go.”  I often wonder if Rembrandt, Durer, Homer, etc. were told they needed to “loosen up.”

What I see going on in the art world is, in a word, nonsense.  It’s become a world of ‘how weird can you get’ rather than ‘can you create something beautiful.’  The art industry has been great at marketing the idea that if I don’t understand piles of garbage being labelled as art, there’s something wrong with me.  And then this video came along and I just HAD to share it.

4 Responses to “What Is Art, Anyway?”

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  1. Diane says:

    The other day my husband and I spent a couple of hours at a gallery on campus and came away with both of us saying “what trash” most of that was. I’m glad see it isn’t just my lack of knowledge that led us to that opinion.

    • Diane, I really think people need to be saying what they think when visiting these museums. Typically they’re spending tax-payer dollars and filling the place with junk.

      Cheers — Larry

  2. Stacy says:

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts and this video about contemporary “art”…it seems the trends in contemporary art have tainted the definition of what it means to be an “artist”. I can see why you resist the title. The video is very enlightening, given it is written by one who has made a career in the field, in conveying to us that the problem of so many modern-day “artists” not knowing even how to draw–it’s amazing how pervasive this problem is. But it takes many many hours of time, effort, and practice to learn to draw, as you and I well know, and applying oneself in such a way is not valued so much these days. It’s sad. My husband and I are in complete agreement with you, and the video author, that what passes for “Contemporary Art” is baffling crap.

    • Stacy, thanks for commenting. Maybe we’re in the same situation as other artists who had to convince the world that they had something to say when the intelligencia thought otherwise. Once upon a time there was the Académie des Beaux-Arts in Paris. To be accepted by them required detailed, thin-paint and very smooth canvases, largely with ethereal themes. Without their acceptance, you were ‘rejected’ by the art world.

      The little-known artists, Monet, Manet, Pisarro, Cezanne, Renoir, and others were among these ‘rejected’ artists. So they went their own way, painting what they wanted and in the ways they wanted to paint. Their disregard for the Académie des Beaux-Arts changed the art world and, obviously, didn’t hurt their careers very much.

      It’s interesting that these guys broke from the ‘norm’ by painting real life. They painted on location. Both of these things are very similar to what most artists in the “sketching” world are doing, with many styles and a reliance upon the ability to draw. Maybe, as Bob Dylan said, “The times they are a’changing.”

      Cheers — Larry