Monday, August 5, 2019

Art and Fear

The genesis of this particular blog is a recent book I've read, and a comment by Sean. The first is Art and Fear, Observations on the Perils and Rewards of Artmaking, by David Bayles, and Ted Orland. The second is on A Sunday morning meditation, from a week ago.

Now you're all caught up and I will probably proceed to bounce around like a ping pong ball in a blender.

I didn't think much about art at all for most of my adult life. Mostly it was to look at, and not like, much of the art that we see in public life. I never thought of making art, unless you consider writing blogs and novel snippets to be art. About the only exception was some glassblowing, where it's trivially easy to end up with beautiful blobs of glass, but whether they are art or not could be debated. I suspect it would be a really short debate.

Is it art, is actually a big complicated question. Most people, rather than give a definition, would paraphrase Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart in 1964, "I know it when I see it."

The price paid for it isn't really a determining factor, except for those immediately involved. Few people, aside from those immediately involved, think 'Voice of Fire' is art. That the buyers call it art is a justification for spending someone else's money, and of course the seller will call it art out of self respect.

Nor is the effort involved in production. Voice of Fire could be reproduced by any competent house painter quite quickly; it would probably take the paint longer to dry than for anything else. One could go to enormous effort to produce a completely accurate replica of the Eiffel Tower or the Statue of Liberty, and I don't think many people would call it art.

To tell you the truth, I'm not much fussed about whether something is art or not. If you made it, and it tickled your artistic bones, then I'm happy for you. If you wanted to sell it and in fact did so, I'm even happier for you.

I think one of the essential attributes of being human is to express yourself artistically in some way. Painting and sculpture easily predate writing, whereas digital photography is quite recent. The many forms of artistic expression came along somewhere between those. Anybody that can't find a way of artistically expressing themselves either isn't trying, or isn't actually human.

Part of the problem with art and artistic stuff is that people get all confused about their motivation. Until someone pays me to take photos of a certain thing, I'll take whatever photos amuse me. Whether they amuse you or not is your business. To the extent you are amused and say so, I'm happy, and the few times people have offered to pay me for those photos I'm over the moon, but I'm not doing this to amuse you. I'm quite clear in my mind, that's a secondary benefit. I'm happy to discuss why or why not you are amused, or details about why a particular photo amuses me, especially if you're buying the beer, but it's not likely to change anything.

People in the business of selling their art are in a tough spot. They might be driven by their inner demons to create certain art, but lurking in the back of their mind is always the question, "will this sell?" Produce too much work that doesn't sell, and you're going to have to get a day job. It's artistic death to produce work that sells but doesn't satisfy your inner creativity.

I can see where that would drive a lot of artists into feeling fearful. Following your fears and producing the resulting artwork could be very good or very bad. As a digression, lately it seems that movie people have been following their fears, and every movie (with the exception of the new Mister Rogers movie) is about fear. I'm not sure if that's the cause or effect of the current American insanity. I'm going to have to think about the connection between fear and art.

For a while I wondered if I was taking too many photos, or not enough photos, or if they were any good. I wondered if there better ways to use the camera, or if there were Lightroom things I should be doing or not doing. I wondered, and still wonder about the many photos I've edited, and what I should do with them. I've printed some, and would like to print more, and could easily do so, but there is a finite amount of wall space in the house. I've seriously thought of buying a big tv to display them at random, but haven't actually done it yet.

Several of my buddies have done books, and this intrigues me. Lightroom makes it easy to export to Blurb, and a short time later a book or a box of books arrives in the mail. But which photos to put in the book? Why those? I won't say this question keeps me awake at night but it does come to mind periodically.

Of course, the major outlet for my photos is my blogs. Sometimes the photo drives the text, sometimes the text drives the photo, and sometimes the two have nothing to do with each other. I suspect that will be the case today, since I haven't chosen the photos as I type. I've thought about getting a more 'pro' website to display my work to more people, but I keep coming back to the fundamental concept that I'm doing this for me. Plus, those kinds of websites usually cost money and I'm cheap. Frugal. Whatever. Then again, the next book in the stack is called, Show Your Work, with a bunch of exclamation marks.

Anyways, I do the photos to get out and have fun and see the world differently. I notice more when I'm walking around with a camera. Hanging around with other photo people can be fun, though usually I'm in one of two modes, either focus on the photos, or focus on the people. I don't mix between those very well, at least not yet.

Some unrelated photos of two different ants against a scenic backdrop. (Pretty, but are they art? Does removing the ant make it art if it isn't, or vice versa?)

Today I was starting to make my list of things to do before leaving for Yukon, when I'll be looking at something like this quite often. (Yes, but is it art?) (Snicker...)

Peony of the Day (July 5)

Driftwood of the Day

1 comment:

  1. Well its obvious, the ant is a metaphor (always a good art word) for humanities ability to forage and go on despite (referencing a classic and always pertinent theme is also good for an art point) being lost in a world that has both beauty and orange hair. For further details please see the comprehensive and annotated bibliography by well known and respected pontificators. Cheers, Sean PS It's a good photo and it is a good companion to the second runner-up.


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