Globatron’s Art Law #5 – Art can’t be taught.

Posted by on Jan 25, 2009 in Akbar Lightning, Laws

5.  Art can’t be taught.

1.Art is not aesthetics.

2.Art has meaning.

3.Art reaches for the sublime which has a moral quality.

4.Art is change.

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50 Comments

  1. markcreegan
    January 25, 2009

    Hoo Yaa! Love it!
    Here is a great quote from James Elkins. Its is a proposed honest disclaimer on a school brochure that lists several famous artists as alumni:

    Although these artists did study at our school, we deny any responsibility for their success. We have no idea what they learned while they were here, what they thought was important and what wasn’t, or whether they would have better off in jail. We consider it luck that these artists were at our school. In general we disclaim the ability to teach art at this level. We offer knowledge of the art community, the facilities to learn a variety of techniques, and faculty who can teach many ways of talking about art. But any relation between what we teach and truly interesting art is purely coincidental.

    from Elkins, James “Why Art Cannot Be Taught”, U of Illinois Press, 2001, pg 104.

    Reply
  2. Byron King
    January 26, 2009

    I thought a bit about this and I think art as a craft can be taught. I mean you can teach someone to draw and mix paint, etc. Someone can learn the craft of printmaking.

    I think it would be clearer to me if it stated that you can not teach someone to be an artist.

    So that it would set the craft of art apart from the chosen path of being an artist.

    Basically with all of the art classes in the world if you don’t have the passion to be an artist it won’t happen. For instance, what are the statistics of artists that have their BFA or MFA ten, twenty years after graduating that are still making art?

    Leading a horse to water, etc. I hope that makes sense.

    Reply
  3. Lauren
    January 26, 2009

    This is kind of silly…you could make the same argument here with any other skill or passionate career. You can learn a musical instrument but not how to be a musician? You can learn math but not how to be a mathematician? This is almost like a predestination arguement, if you were never meant to be chosen, then you won’t be chosen regardless of whether you want to be chosen or not.

    I agree that some people have more inherent ability and are therefore more artistically inclined than others. But what if you love art but have very little ability? Does that mean you are doomed to fail? I’m sorry but I can’t agree with the art can’t be taught thing. That goes against what I tell my drawing students. If you want it, you can learn it. Even passion for art can be enhanced by learning more about it.

    Reply
  4. Akbar Lightning
    January 26, 2009

    but lauren, from where does passion spring?

    what is the source of desire?

    this is a mystery, no?

    and if artists can be born out of instruction, once again, what are the principles that allow for the creation or nurturing of such people? it all goes back to this search, what is art?

    if you believe artists can be taught, then you have to believe there is a method, and that method must grow out of a root set of principles that defines the endpoint. that seems logical to me.

    akbar

    Reply
  5. Byron King
    January 26, 2009

    Lauren, so you teach them how to draw. Then what? Can you teach them passion?

    Reply
  6. valuistics
    January 26, 2009

    I think Lauren may mean that passion is a given. Certain passions already stir within people, and a big part of the learning process is apprehending and harnessing those passions. That’s how I read it, and I would agree. When you’re in Drawing class, depending on your instructor, you are not just learning how to make marks in a technical craft-oriented way. Teachers realize that there are multiple points of entry into artistic practice, and, I would hope, try to facilitate and cheerlead the students in order to stoke their passion. Show them everything, I say. Flip their wigs. Confound their expectations for the better.

    The nature/nurture debate is as old as the hills. Balance is key.

    If your art classes didn’t stir your passion, I’m sorry. Maybe you had wretched teachers? I doubt they were all bad…

    The teacher doesn’t just teach, they reach. They reach out. They recognize their own passion in their students and use their experience to help the students think more deeply about the practice of making work. They also sometimes serve as role models. If the students ape the professor’s work at first, no worries, they will want to distinguish themselves soon enough.

    So no I wouldn’t agree that being an artist is taught the way contour drawing is taught. But the latter may accompany they former.

    So reword the law? As Byron suggested, I think it should be changed to “Being an Artist Cannot be Taught.” But I apply Artist broadly, as artists exist in every field.

    Reply
  7. valuistics
    January 26, 2009

    Oh and it takes drive, as well. And drive is something that is probably both nature-taught AND nurture-taught. Students come to class with or without the necessary drive to even want to stoke their passions. Some folks are hard to reach and others, I’m afraid, can’t be reached yet. At least not by that teacher. The student needs to do more than just meet the teacher in the middle. Students need to drive themselves all the way.

    Reply
  8. Akbar Lightning
    January 26, 2009

    valuistics,

    in your last post, you said that students lack the drive to stoke their passions. i kind of think it’s redundant. passion and drive seem to me to be two words that could very easily describe the same thing. action is evidence of passion or drive.

    i think the truth is that many of the students are not artistic individuals. when i went to school, and yes, i had some good teachers, but i had much better teachers out in the world. my point though, is when i was at school, many students were in the art program for an easy degree, or at least, that is what their action represented.

    i have done a lot of teaching. but mostly, i have taught skills. i cannot imagine trying to teach artists, i don’t know how i would begin. i only know that my own artistic journey began before i could remember and remains a mystery today. how does one go from that place to helping others? seriously.

    i suppose i find that this makes sense to me, making art a difficult thing to define, in order to draw out consciousness about it, and therefore force people to evaluate their action, which is what many students are avoiding. art schools are great places for people to isolate from the world.

    and pretending that we are going to nurture them into being an artist is a way of enabling their confrontation-avoiding egos, and of course, this benefits the loan companies greatly at the expense of the future young adult.

    akbar

    Reply
  9. valuistics
    January 26, 2009

    I think everyone has a passion, whether they are “artistic people” or not. Chefs have passion. Are they artistic or not? Amateur pilots have passion. Are they artistic? True or False? Black or white? What’s the next absolute going to be? I can’t wait! Wheeeee! Art fundamentalism! Hallelujah!

    Drive, to me, is distinct from passion because it implies action, which merely having passion does not. Students may have the passion and not the drive, they may have both, they may have neither. They all have different needs. I stand by the idea that yes you can nurture a student to have more drive (meaning get more done, go further.) I know this because I too had the passion since before I could remember yet if it wasn’t for teachers engaging me, I would not have developed the drive and my passion would go wasted. And if that is what it takes for a student to harness their real passion and achieve what they want with art or whatever they want to do, then giddyup. That is my job.

    Loan companies? That is out of my hands. A lot of students drop my class because I expect too much drive. They decide they don’t want to work at it. I don’t miss them.

    As for “…pretending that we are going to nurture them into being an artist is a way of enabling their confrontation-avoiding egos.”

    You must have been some teacher. There is a lot one has to confront if they want to be an artist.

    I don’t know what you do to feed your family, but I’m sure whatever it is, it’s probably not hardcore enough to stand up to your own righteous orthodoxy. I’m done with this. I have a three year old at home going through the same oppositional phase, and that is more than enough for me.

    Reply
  10. markcreegan
    January 26, 2009

    a good art school experience is where one gets to do a lot of stuff, work with a lot of materials, and learn a lot of ideas. All i can do as a teacher is try to transmit the process of doing something that may lead to art, so the focus in classes should be on the process rather than the product.

    I think the main ingredient a student needs is a creative imagination. All the really successful ones are kids who were kinda loners who holed themselves in their rooms and drew, made up stories, or liked to entertain folks. Its the kid who didn’t listen when someone told them at age 5 or whatever that the sky isn’t stripey orange- they never lost their imagination. Passion is important also, but it is difficult to measure because it can manifest in different ways. And passion may not be able to be taught but it can be discovered, kind of like i am now developing a passion to exercise (if you told me that 2 years ago i would have laughed!) So an art education needs to be one where a student who is capable of discovering her passion can. On a tangible level, having large studios that are accessible 24/7 is a good way towards that. (hint,hint)

    Reply
  11. Akbar Lightning
    January 26, 2009

    valuistics, yet again you profess that you are too good for this conversation. i’m out of here, i’m done with this, i don’t have time for this, oh, but i can’t resist, i can’t help but touch it.

    my oh my, quite personal your last post. well, i can take it.

    in the same post that you say you nurture drive, you say students drop your class because they lack it. which is it?

    what is the source of passion? no one knows.
    what drives action? i think it is passion. that’s all i’m saying.

    if you can inspire passion, wow, how do you do it, what are the principles you use, that’s all i’m saying. maybe it is your own passion, i would probably believe that, but perhaps it is an illusion. sometimes one might see the passion in others and think one had something to do with it. who knows. i just don’t think you know, that’s all, i don’t. if you did, you could teach me.

    we will miss you in these discussions. because i don’t live my life very hardcore, i will keep on going, and when you return we will look forward to your next goodbye. (this is all in good fun, it’s only art right?)

    peace, love and applesauce,

    the softcore akbar

    Reply
  12. Akbar Lightning
    January 26, 2009

    in response to mark,

    your description of the typical artist matches my experience, i agree completely. there are principles there, i would rather not draw them out here, but there are qualities that can be investigated, whether it has to do with isolation or different levels of intelligence, different brain states, whatever. like the old saying, ‘it takes one to know one.’ i agree with the idea, that a good teacher can recognize potential, it is intuitive, absolutely, but one might benefit from meditating on the source of such intuitions.

    access to space is indeed a wonderful thing, like Virginia Woolf’s a Room of One’s Own. but, i have always believed that teachers ought to prepare students for the world, and i have often thought that if artists simply worked part-time, and rented a room, it would, in the end, cost a hell of a lot less in the end, and it would bring the artist into direct confrontation with the world.

    why don’t art schools have job placement programs, or gallery placement programs, where they could guarantee a certain percentage. imagine if you signed up at a school with a 90 percent gallery placement.

    i just think, that if a school says they teach art, they ought to be specific, are they teaching a person what art is, or how to be an artist? to say, i don’t know on both counts is irresponsible, if one receives money. that’s my stake.

    akbar

    Reply
  13. markcreegan
    January 26, 2009

    Well, actually art education has become more specific with many programs focusing on graphic design and computer imaging. Nothing wrong with that, but THERE is the art school equivalent of job placement.
    A very, very, very, very small number of students i get (mostly freshmen) have even the slightest desire to become artists. The closest aspiration most get is graphic designer, animator, or video game designer. The reasons range from the student is genuinely interested in the subject (which is good) to her parents thinking that is the “practical” course to take (which is lousy).

    Again the “art” art student is a quirky, odd fish. Since art is loose and undefined (it really is) the art school experience is also, as it should be. As far as jobs I agree, and I also believe something my art teacher (David Lauderdale) once told me- that creative people can usually find creative ways to make money (maybe not a lot of it, but enough).

    Reply
  14. Akbar Lightning
    January 26, 2009

    the job placement you are speaking about is for fields other than art. animation and graphic design are fields that support higher forms of culture, they are support positions.

    as far as art being loose and undefined, that seems a convenient position to take for an art educator. in relation to your description of the artistic temperment, a young artist does not often understand the ramifications of the financial burdens imposed by the cost of such a loose education, and you are taking somebody who desires to do one of the hardest things in the world (my opinion), and burdening them with debt, with no clear guidelines for them to enter into the world. i think it would be rather radical for universities to develop relationships with galleries and make themselves more responsible for their students. instead of, well, ‘go out there find your way, we’ve done our best at confusing you.’

    personally, after leaving school, after over 16 years of being in an institution i promised myself i would not become an art teacher until i felt i had something to teach. i still would feel unprepared. i think an art educator could make quite a name for him/herself by taking a more active role in the ‘lives’ of the students, as art professionals, if they in fact, credit themselves with the ability to nurture talent. Obama’s call to self-sacrificing service i think would be a breath of fresh air in art departments, where teachers would help students integrate themselves into the world.

    i suspect there is a slight fear of creating one’s competitors. the art world is cut-throat in this way, and for this reason i believe artists should continue this work of building bridges with one another, developing a strong community and finding a language to support what we do.

    it seems odd that there would be such a strong resistance to language, finding shared values, among idealists, people with imagination and passion. yet, in such economic times, when art schools will certainly be closing down, i wonder if artists are seeing the bigger picture, pardon the pun.

    akbar

    Reply
  15. Byron King
    January 26, 2009

    We are all learning. Nothing is set in stone. I hope can we all approach these exercises the same way, with humility.

    I think if we could meet in person there would be no animosity but unfortunately with the internet often times people take things out of context. I’m sure if folks used emoticons on their statements that could possibly be taken out of context we’d have none of this animosity.

    I see a possibility that art educators deal with these types of discussions all day, and maybe they are a bit burnt out when approaching it here online. Akbar and I thirst for this as we don’t have that environment on a day to day basis.

    So I would just like to put this out there. I know many Art Professors and educators take their professions very seriously and believe deeply that they are indeed developing the future artists, thinkers, and philosophers of tomorrow. I can not imagine if I was in that profession and someone was to say that it was all for nothing. This is a very touchy subject for many I would believe and I suggest we should tread lightly in the future when discussing this specific subject and have as much humility from both sides when continuing the “Art Laws” exercise. I do a lot of valid points have been brought up by both sides on this specific subject already and I hope the dialogue continues.

    This law and it’s discussion has brought me to another possible law which is, “Art is a Calling”.

    Word to your Mother…

    Reply
  16. Akbar Lightning
    January 26, 2009

    just to be clear, i’m not saying that art teaching is pointless, but i am merely trying to ‘add to it.’ i do think there are very real problems with it as a profession, and i do think that art teachers can be aware of such things. i think that art professors are in a very good place to take criticism from former students. professorship is a privilege, and i really do find it frustrating that so many young people are under such loose guidance.

    i agree with byron that i think many art professors are very passionate and very committed, and i also agree that this discussion is meant to be an intellectual exercise.

    i think if somebody steps into the place of ‘teacher’ that that is a sacred space, one where a person submits to a power dynamic, and that this should be considered very deeply and all the ramifications that follow. a teacher ought to have a clear reason why they are in that position and have a clear direction that they hope to lead their students out of submission.

    (smiley face emoticon)
    a.l.

    Reply
  17. markcreegan
    January 26, 2009

    as far as art being loose and undefined, that seems a convenient position to take for an art educator.

    No, it is not convenient. It would be MUCH easier to teach a measurable, completely objective subject like math, or even English. Now, since I teach foundations classes I do have a bit of an easier time since there are some measurable goals. But even that becomes a burden because you do not want to convey that art is a measurable, objective field. It is not, unless you want to sit and paint still-lifes all day (and even that doesn’t approach the objectivity of math!).

    Another non-convenient aspect of teaching art is that, because of its ambiguity, there are many, many different ways to approach the subject. This is why I feel it is important for students to have many different teachers to gain exposure to different perspectives.

    And, in communities that have a thriving for-profit and not-for-profit art gallery scene, students often are recruited as paid or non-paid interns. Most art professors I have met are very open to their students about the harsh realities of the profession. Granted, I have heard of some teachers(especially those who deal with grad students)who divvy out their knowledge sparsely because they are afraid of the competition. I have not personally met anyone like this as a teacher or a student.

    Reply
  18. Akbar Lightning
    January 26, 2009

    i suppose i agree mark, i guess part of being a young student is that they often wouldn’t listen when it comes to warnings about difficulty. what a shame really, that there isn’t more fertile ground for us, don’t you think? so much money going to building bombs, and we have to scrounge around. pisses akbar off.

    in ireland, a friend of mine is from there, artists who aren’t making money get checks from the government, ‘living on the dole’ he calls it. it’s just enough to live a modest life. i wish our government were that enlightened.

    my anger is not so much with art professors as it is with the university system itself, something too closely aligned with the credit industry that enslaves people, and artists need all the help they can get, without starting out in a hole, many of us do in fact come from difficult pasts.

    so, point being, i agree on most of your points, don’t you think that there must be some universal principles though that we can share? no? like maybe what you said, that ‘art should not harm?’ would you agree to that. anyways, a set of universal principles, wouldn’t that give young artists a way of confronting the world as a unified community? just saying. isn’t the goal to help them?

    smiley face,
    akbar

    Reply
  19. valuistics
    January 26, 2009

    When I say I’m gone it means I’m gone for the moment. I get pissed off really easily sometimes, especially when I haven’t had coffee. I’ll review the things that make sense here:

    “if you can inspire passion, wow, how do you do it, what are the principles you use, that’s all I’m saying. maybe it is your own passion, i would probably believe that, but perhaps it is an illusion.”

    Perhaps. You can’t exude passion every day. Sometimes the illusion is enough. You can’t assign students passion. They have to find it somehow. Lead them to the stream… Instilling passion is the X factor. It’s that part which can’t be quantified. Maybe it is an illusion. Maybe you are an illusion…

    “It seems odd that there would be such a strong resistance to language, finding shared values, among idealists, people with imagination and passion.”

    We are still humans. Conflict is in our blood and non-conformism is promoted in art culture. Finding shared values has been what this site has always been about, and no doubt these posts bring us back once again to that, but artists are unlikely to have many shared perspectives. We may respect each other and have different perspectives. Our culture celebrates having differing perspectives on everything. University professors and instructors are more unified in purpose because they all must believe in what they do. But aside from that tie that binds us, we all have differing perspectives.

    “I do think there are very real problems with (art teaching) as a profession, and I do think that art teachers can be aware of such things.”

    No argument there. Don’t get a teacher started on all the things that are wrong with the system. For they are perhaps more aware of the problems than anyone.

    “Yet, in such economic times, when art schools will certainly be closing down, I wonder if artists are seeing the bigger picture, pardon the pun.”

    That has been on my mind since before I started. I feel like I’ve always been living in a recession. I’m doing it because it’s what I really want to do. I often consider trying to teach in other capacities. I have taught in a number of capacities and I’m not sure college is the best way to learn anything. Let’s start a school!

    I know this discussion is to help, and I shouldn’t have made it personal, but sharing values imply valuing what others do? I don’t feel like you know what I do. We all know there are a million ways to make things better, and we try to make our classes better every day.

    I need someone calling all my practices into question, sure. And I get that every day. I call my own practices into question every class period because what worked last semester may not work this semester. I know of no other teacher who has to call their their practice into question so much. So yes, teaching art is one big problem we get a crack at solving every day. That’s why teaching art is different from teaching Math or English.

    Often I think that artmaking is more valuable as a process than it is as a product. I wonder what would happen if instead of making Art a subject unto itself, if it were instead used as the process by which things like Math, English, Geometry, History and Social Studies are taught? Again- Let’s start a school!

    Some days, like today, I just don’t appreciate all the work I do being spoken about as though it were a fraud.

    I agree with the points here. I trust your experience and that you aren’t just making this stuff up. I did mean to disrespect you, and I should not have. For that I’m sorry. It’s not called for in this realm.

    But we could move more toward a real exploration of shared values if we valued each other. That’s one way to keep it moving.

    Just sayin.

    I’m never gone.

    Reply
  20. Akbar Lightning
    January 26, 2009

    I title this entry IRONIES:

    Welcome back Valuistics He who is never gone.

    yeah man, i dig everything you wrote, there was something personal and hard and true in it, and it reinforces my belief that we all kind of agree in some deep way. in fact, my whole purpose of beginning this dialogue was to provoke. I am not nearly this provocative in real life, this is Akbar Lightning my alter ego, and I like that your name in this realm is Valuistics, application of values…ironic, and wonderful, and you get angry and slam the door and come back, that is good and creates this alter ego. i hope you guys are digging me when i say why shouldn’t we be super heroes of sorts.

    in the olden days, the word school meant a group of people who held a set of values together. i like that and I would love to see that re-emerge. in fact i think that is coming, as a back-lash to the commodification of education.

    more irony, markcreegan, the one who works most diligently and articulately to resist this search, who acts as the trickster spirit, the one most difficult to pin down, uses his real name.

    globatron, alter ego of byron king, now byron king is a man that was never afraid to provoke consciousness in the real world, and although there were times it drove me crazy, i will always respect his courage, and over the last few years I have meditated deeply on it and tried to train myself to remain young like that, to not give into apathy, something that is easy to do after surviving adolescence and post-college. byron has learned to balance his super power with grace, and i honor him for that.

    what binds the Legion of Super Heroes is a set of codes.

    Wittgenstein wrote one major work, and the main point of the work was to argue that writing works of philosophy is pointless. And I love it, i loved that book. but here’s the rub, i find that very 20th century, there was an urge in the 20th century for each movement to have the last word, to strike the final blow against the old rules and moralities. but there seems to me to be a kind of fallout, of which Bush seems to personify. all of this i see in the arts, a kind of don’t mess with me, and i won’t mess with you, free market attitude. nobody wants to work together and have a kind of community dialogue. have you ever tried to read ArtForum, it’s like taking acid.

    just like Obama took a tired institution, one we all felt was hopelessly corrupted and sought to reinspire it, and make it anew, I think that people are hungry for an art movement that is fresh and unified and generous in spirit, a kind of new humanism. my gut tells me that. that is the passion that has driven this investigation.

    and it’s ironic, cause what the freak do I know? but i choose it, i think, i don’t know that either.

    akbar

    Reply
  21. valusitics
    January 26, 2009

    Let’s start that school! What are we waiting for? This thread alone would be a killer Contemporary Issues final. Yeah alteregos are fun. Valuistics is probably more diplomatic than James Greene, so I should have posted under my own name today. Valutron is perhaps a more apt moniker.

    I just realized that this is the closest thing to a support group that I have, and brother I need one. So thanks. Let’s go out hunting sasquatch sometime.

    Now about that school…

    Reply
  22. kurt polkey
    January 26, 2009

    I watched the SAG awards last night and a common theme kept coming up. These people are really passionate about their “craft”. Why are the people on this blog so afraid of defining what they do as craft. Or why are they so afraid to allow what another defines as craft to be art?
    I, for one, am in the middle of an art crisis. A crisis of my artistic faith. I would actually feel better if I was more “craft” oriented. And maybe I would be if I had all the skills required to master said craft.
    To stay on topic, can one be passionate about craft, and would that be enough to call it art?

    Reply
  23. Akbar Lightning
    January 26, 2009

    yay kurt, i like the direction. again, it requires us to come to terms, to develop an understanding of some universal principles that we can all use to discuss our craft, just as actors do. they have methods, philosophies that drive their craft. the combination creates something we experience as art.

    i think that craft when taken to a certain devotional height does reach the level of art. Japanese masters come to mind, but then the craft is reflecting something deep and spiritual.

    is there anybody who is willing to state some universal truth about art? mark has implied it when he said his art should not harm, but is he willing to say that is true with all art?

    and kurt, do you have a way of defining what makes craft a work of art? what is the quality that makes one go from a cup at a craft fair to a piece of clay that has some other level of inspiration.

    just questions. byron and i have just thrown out tentative ideas, but i think i believe most of them.

    akbar

    Reply
  24. markcreegan
    January 27, 2009

    And I don’t want any aspect of my life to harm, art is a part of my life.

    I have no problem with locating some “values” shared due to our common culture, the time in which we live, etc. But you go further than I can go when you promote some “unified” movement that is a “kind of new humanism”? (are we talking figurative work?)

    I may be misreading your intentions, but when I read of your opposition to the “individualism” of contemporary art, I assume that means more than people working on their own but also developing their distinct, individualized practice.

    There are many art collectives working today- assume vivid astro focus, gelitin, 0100101110101101.ORG, Critical Art Ensemble, Atlas Group, Group Material, Reena Spaulings, to name a few. They usually de-emphasize the singular artist and tend to use digital technology which further cuts out the artist’s “hand”. Some are political in focus and many formed during art school.

    And of course there are groups like the Stuckists, which promote figurative painting and hate conceptualism (to think is non-human?). Is that the kind of humanism you are after? If so, then there is your group.

    If you look at the art “groups” of the past
    like Fluxus, Gutai, and the Situationists, they were comprised of very individualized artists but with similar leanings toward experimentalism.

    That is what I am interested in -experimentation (how more “human” can you get?)- not wagging my finger at the corrupt institution of contemporary art wanting to clean things up like some Obama. I certainly want community dialog! (why i am on this blog) And i think that conversation is much more interesting among those with diverse perspectives and approaches.

    Reply
  25. Akbar Lightning
    January 27, 2009

    Hey Mark,

    you keep locating the ideas in the style or technique, by humanism, i simply mean an art that is lovingly focused on the human community, and that does not necessarily mean political. art can be challenging in order to uplift humanity, or it can condescend the audience, making fun of people, exploiting people, etc., and we see a lot of that these days.

    experimentation is a good word. experimentation is driven by a hypothesis, and that hypothesis changes and is altered and knowledge is developed. all i’m after is what knowledge have you accumulated about the principles that are innate to this thing called art, and of course, what is your hypothesis.

    the diversity fetish in our culture is best experienced when one is trying to buy shampoo, and I see the contemporary art world kind of like the shampoo isle in the super market. i mean are there some very real differences in the bottles that say for normal, frizzy or dry hair. isn’t it all the same stuff in different bottles. but at bottom, i’m sure there are some superior shampoo products, and the science of shampoo is confused by a market that seeks to undermine the purchasers ability to learn from the product themselves by the misdirection. i think the art world is very much like that, and yes, i am wagging my finger, i am actually criticizing the ‘industry.’ and most importantly, not because of any stylistic concern, not at all. it’s a zeitgeist thing.

    akbar the frizzy haired fish face

    Reply
  26. Lauren
    January 27, 2009

    The division between art and craft has always bothered me. I think craft has gotten a bad rap because it is often brings to mind little old ladies and ready-to-paint wooden trinkets, or cheesy craft fairs. Fine art is usually associated with aesthetics and craft with function, but fine art can be functional and craft art can be extremely aesthetic. In fact, craft is often a much more effective fusion of the two.

    I don’t know what makes fine art “fine” and craft art “craft”. I think that the boundary between the two continues to shift, but I wish fine art critics wouldn’t look down on craft because I don’t think it is necessarily any less artistic. You can have amazing art that is looked at as “craft”, and really bad art that is classified as “fine.” If it is all art, why the classification?

    Reply
  27. markcreegan
    January 27, 2009

    What does art “lovingly focused on the human community” consist of? If its not about style, then what characteristics does it have? Honestly, all I can think of is Norman Rockwell.

    What art doesn’t do this? If an artist is sharing her creation and I get to participate in that, experience that, isn’t that a loving, human act?

    What art, other than characature, makes fun of people? Are you talking about “clever” art that seems to be smarter than us? What if we are smart? What if we just need to assume an artwork is lovingly sharing with us and we just need to drop our defenses and look?

    Reply
  28. Akbar Lightning
    January 27, 2009

    in response to Lauren:

    I agree with you that our culture has lost its appreciation of craft. it has probably shifted to our appreciation of technology. But I don’t think we gain anything by lumping these terms together. Our language gives us the ability to reason through things, to find unity and clarity and if we make these terms more fluid, we lose more than we gain.

    craft can be a significant contributor to the pursuit of art, and often is one of its redeeming qualities but crafting and arting are different activities, and that is what this discussion was pursuing. craft is best when it serves, and that is what gives craft its spiritual essence. there is nothing superior about art over craft, and those that feel that way, i agree, have never argued it successfully. but when you feel insecure about craft and wish your craft would receive the accolade that art receives, it is ‘buying into’ the same fallacy that gives ‘fine’ art its class distinctions. i agree also that the word ‘fine’ is kind of redundant. especially when we have such difficulties defining what it is.

    in response to mark: I am happy to name some artists I believe fulfill my expectations ‘from’ art. rockwell, i’m not so sure, but i am a fan of Kiefer, Michelangelo, Picasso, just to name a few. do you have artists that you think represent the essence of art making, heroes? or do you love all art equally? i find that a very difficult thing to understand.

    i don’t believe that all acts of art are loving any more than i feel all financial investments are loving. i don’t trust the government any more than they deserve and i don’t trust artists any more than they deserve. discernment is a word that is important to me.

    it’s not that I don’t get it, it’s not that i’m not clever, it’s just that cleverness is different than deep and profound,and I prefer the latter. i prefer it, and so I argue for it. what do you prefer? who are the artists that you would argue for?

    abkar

    Reply
  29. morrison
    January 27, 2009

    this town has the drive and determination i guess, it just ends up nowhere. the risks taken are really few and far between, communication with artists here on the blog is really only a few voices, i don’t have internet anymore and it feels like freedom all over again, hail the pen…

    Reply
  30. byron king
    January 27, 2009

    Morrison do you read the posts and comments before commenting. Just wondering. I love you man, but this could come across as spam if I didn’t know you in person.

    I know you have more to offer the discussion than that mate. I implore you to give the discussions you are commenting on some thought before commenting in the future.

    Reply
  31. markcreegan
    January 27, 2009

    You are absolutely clever and witty Akbar!

    Okay. I have many personal heroes, but before I list them I want to explain a bit what type of interactions with art I find interesting. And yes, some art to me is more interesting than others, but I can usually find something interesting in many different things. The reason I say that I “interact with” art rather than “get from” is that I do much of the work in creating a meaningful experience. I’m talking about art that provokes my lateral thinking skills, a process of movement from one established pattern of thinking into new patterns, and possibly changing my perception of something.

    To do this mental movement from one suggestion to another, to make connections, and to be receptive to different ways of looking at things requires that I disregard judgment for as long as possible, at least, until I find out that there are no or few alternative patterns to follow. Cleverness and humor are very similar in that they are a great way to provoke this sort of thinking, going from the conventional to the absurd, illogical, and (yes) profound.

    I use art to feed my mind with new patterns, since every other aspect of my life follows the same monotonous ones. Art is a “safe” way to do this.

    Kiefer, Michelangelo, and Picasso have certainly provided this for me. I have stood in front of a Kiefer for the better part of an hour with my knees shaking. I certainly have a profound experience with his work, others that would fall into this category (which i call Schindler’s List art) would be Terry Winters, Leonardo Drew, Terrance La Noue, Cy Twombly, and Joan Snyder to name a few. But I get a profound experience in many different ways from artists like Richard Tuttle, Tony Feher, Tara Donovan, Felix Gonzalez Torres, Tim Hawkinson, Tom Friedman, Andy Kaufman, Isa Genzken, Urs Fischer, Lilly McElroy, Pheobe Washburn, Martin Creed, John Beech, David Hammons, Jen Stark, Bjorn Dahlem, Ry Rocklen, Spencer Finch, Guy Ben-Ner, Young Hae Chang Heavy Industries, Sarah Sze, Harrell Fletcher, Brian Jungen, Rachel Harrison, Bruce Nauman, Jim Hodges, Abraham Cruzvillegas, Jim Lambie, B. Wurtz, Erwin Wurm, Evan Holloway, Carol Bove, John Bock, James Green, Matt Allison, David Lauderdale, Dustin Harewood, morrison, Kurt Polkey, Byron King, And Nestor Gil Jr.

    WHEW! That’s from thinking for 30 minutes I am sure I could think of some more. Anyway, there are some artists who have affected me, infected me, changed me, delighted me, and basically kicked me on my ass! If I had to choose a top five (INPO): Felix Gonzalez Torres, Richard Tuttle, Bruce Nauman, David Hammons, and Tony Feher.

    I am sure most of these will not meet with your expectation of “profound” art. That’s fine. I am not looking for anything. I am just looking.

    Reply
  32. Byron King
    January 28, 2009

    Wonderful list Mark. Amazing you put the locals in there. Very kind of you.

    I’m sort of a strange one as I don’t have favorite movies, colors, artists, or anything really. I have moments when I feel really touched by art, music, food, etc. But I never seem to be able to categorize them into a list of favorites. Maybe I should have a smart phone so I could do that. My brain doesn’t remember lyrics, or funny moments from Monty Python movies. I just sort of react to the absolute moment. Not to say I’m in the moment, because that’s the absolute opposite. My brain is reacting to the moment but with all the baggage of living the life I have lived and currently live.

    I admire people who have collections of things and names. I don’t think I’d ever be a good fit for an MFA program as I don’t think I’d be able to name the proper name of an artist at the right time to continue the art dialogue at hand. Maybe that’s not needed but it is an anxiety I have.

    To speak to the craft issue. I believe craft is a tool to make art. They are to separate things entirely. I believe that was explained beautifully by Akbar. Craft can rise the the level of art when it expresses something more than it’s functionality. Craft serves a purpose. Art expresses an emotion or ideal. Some Craft is meant to be craft but rises above and serves two purposes and then becomes art.

    I believe in contemporary art we might have distanced ourselves from the average viewer namely because it has distanced itself from craft. I have no issue with that.

    I do have issue with the word “fine” in describing fine art and find it terribly silly. Good point.

    And to sum up what I have pulled from this discussion.

    Craft can be taught. Art can’t be taught.

    I am in full agreement.

    Reply
  33. kurt polkey
    January 28, 2009

    Jeff Koons suspends a basketball in a tank. Damien Hirst has a shark cut in half. Donald Judd makes metal boxes. Duchamp signs a urinal.
    If I go to a museum and I stare at a Caravaggio, am I not learning something, am I not being taught something by that artist or by that painting? Can only an artists that has been touched by the divine truly be able to understand art? Be a “real” artist?

    Artists do not live in a vacuum. We are constantly learning. We are constantly being taught, evolving, becoming something else. Not unlike everyone else. We are not special. Our gift or our craft is not all that different from others. A man builds a house and another man makes a sculpture out of jiffy pops.

    Artists are born and made. It’s a combination. Sure it’s important to have a passion(a word way over used in this blog), but passion does not make an artist. At some point art has to be learned, therefore it has to be taught. Maybe not taught by a teacher at an art school, but taught by someone or something.

    I think we have all been guilty of thinking art is sacred, therefore making ourselves (artists) sacred. Most of us are not very successful, so in order to keep making art we have to inflate its importance.
    You have to ask yourself – are you making art important in order to make yourself important?

    Wayne Thiebaud wouldn’t allow people to call him an artist. He prefer ed to be called a painter. “Artist” was too pretentious.

    Reply
  34. Byron King
    January 28, 2009

    When you teach someone to make art are you teaching them art or craft? When you look at a Caravagio are you learning anything but craft? Art comes from inside you. Will looking at that Caravaggio direct you to make art? That direction comes from inside. You can’t be taught inspiration.

    How do you measure success Kurt? I feel my life and art have been a success. Watch the interview posted tonight if you get a chance.
    http://www.globatron.org/artist-portraits/paul-rucker

    Paul Rucker is a janitor and a security guard, who teaches kids how to make music, performs and shows extensively, and works his day jobs so he can make his art. And after watching that video if you don’t find him a success then we disagree on the definition of that word.

    I think the problem with many artist is that they think there is this point where someone deems their work important so it becomes important. If you don’t find your work important then it doesn’t matter if someone else finds it to be so. For instance you can’t look for happiness by trying to get it from others. Happiness has to come from inside you. Just like passion. Just like your definition of success. You define it. And if your definition is colliding with your definition of happiness then you are going to have real problems as an artist.

    I have had a grand adventure. Art is sacred. Life is sacred. Art and life are sacred. I’m sorry you don’t feel so. I don’t need anyone to tell me I’m important. I make art for myself and need NO audience.

    I am happy with the title “Artist” because I don’t take the title lightly. And I think that’s at the core of this exercise is to define the title Artist, so we can all have some pride in what we are calling ourselves or not calling ourselves.

    Reply
  35. kurt polkey
    January 28, 2009

    Byron,
    I am trying to make the point regarding this idea of artists learning or artist born. The law says: Art can’t be taught. I think this law implies artists are anointed. I have a problem with the idea of the divine making of an “artist”.
    I started making art, because it excited me. I kept making art because I felt I was good at it. I felt I was good at it because someone like Jim Draper told me so. I also learned how to draw the figure from Jim and his encouragement made me study other artists, like Alice Neel. I met Mark and Lee Harvey and Jonathan Lux, plus a few others and they all helped me and inspired me. If not for this series of events I may never have become an artist.
    I guess I’m not seeing much of a distinction between teaching and inspiring and learning. All these ingredients are needed. What I’m trying to do is make a distinction between artists becoming artists exclusively on passion or desire or whatever, and artists becoming artists because they have both a desire and a learned (taught) ability to make art.

    I agree LIFE is sacred, but I don’t think art should be held in the same dominion.

    I think the question of “artist inflating the importance of art, to justify the making of art” needs a little more reflection. To say you don’t need any one to tell you you’re imporant and you don’t need an audience is a little disengious.

    Maybe I lack a certain confidence that you guys have, because I just feel a little funny calling myself an artists so often.

    Reply
  36. Byron King
    January 28, 2009

    So if that series of events did not happen you would not be an artist?

    Artist or Art is a word for lack of a better word Kurt. Call it what you will. The first Law or whatever of all of this should have been, Art is a word for lack of a better word. That words are used to define things the best we can because we have a limited vocabulary to define God, Art, Love. I have a hard time with the word god or God too. To me it’s a word that defines everything. And now that I think about it, Art, God, and Love are very closely related. I can use these words because I know no other way to define them.

    I basically believe we are having a disagreement about semantics. You say Potato type conversation.

    I believe this law is stating that we can not be taught something that is inately part of us. Art or the creative process is a part of us inately at birth. All children have it. Society slowly drains it out of us and makes it an unacceptable way to express ones self.

    Children’s art is sacred. I believe that with all my heart. It is untainted and at it’s purest form. Like the buddha. Enlightened. We gradually become codified and part of the matrix of our cultures and upbringings. Art is then either like you said shown to you as a path, or knocked out of your life for some time. But if you have the “Calling”, or some would argue “Curse” it will always come back into your life.

    That’s where I think this discussion is going. I mean look Art is just a word, just as is Artist, but we continue to be called to the practice of it, whatever it is. Others have abandoned the journey but you haven’t Kurt. Why is that? I believe that is because you are called to it. And that’s not taught. Someone can teach you to draw, paint, sculpt, and think conceptually, but if you aren’t called to do so in a regular studio practice, ten, twenty years from now after being truly tested by lifes heartaches then it can not be taught to you to do so.

    And no, I really don’t need an audience. I would be happy if I never showed my work ever again. I had to get that out of my system, but I feel as if I’ve been cleansed. No need to show anyone what I know to be true, and those truths are my own personal truths. I don’t need a pat on the back anymore, but you can give me one if you feel like it. I have bigger fish to fry like an invasive brain surgery 5:30am Thursday morning. Wish me luck. I hope these conversations continue. They are the best yet. We should make a book.

    Reply
  37. Akbar Lightning
    January 28, 2009

    First to respond to Mark:

    The process you describe, the detachment you use to experience the work so that you can have the new pattern wash over you, so to speak, that is a valuable one, but there is another version of that, the flip side of the coin, which is to detach from self and all the fractal patterns of response and to try and receive from the artist, to listen, to submit to the work. this does require some judgment. frankly i don’t quite believe you when you say you are ‘just looking.’ the experience of patterns intermingling requires your presence, and presence is a state of conscious being, and judgments are there. pure being, one where we connect completely with our environment has the capacity to dissolve all boundaries, and so, to look at a work of art we are called to focus our attention, to look and dive into relationship with it, this demands that we be aware of our judgments, and then allow the work of art to engage with those judgments in order that they dance, perhaps transmute one another. i really don’t believe that you are not operating from a set of values. to try and be free from those values, in order to avoid blindness, is noble, but to believe you can ever be completely free can be hubris, and i think metaphysically impossible.

    i suppose when i say humanist, i am saying perhaps if we as artists opened up our judgments with one another, we might be surprised to find that some of them are universal, and if they are universal, no one is endangered by them.

    you listed five artists, as your top five. firstly, i want to say that many of the artists you mention are favorites of mine too, but those five, how could you choose them without judgments? what I want to know is what do those five people share that you appreciate? seriously, really think about it, so that maybe i can see that in those artists myself.

    to respond to the byron/kurt discussion:

    nobody is saying that artists are somehow more valuable to society than a man who builds houses. but if there were a prescribed method for creating art and teaching art, we would not be having this conversation. Kurt, feel free to share with us the principles for teaching an artist.

    art might forever remain a mystery, but there are some who love mysteries and who do not shy away from them. and there are those who just want to take what is given to them. i suspect people who would rather call themselves painters are those types of people. the few times I have tried that people asked me if i paint houses or pictures, and i realized i wanted to be special so i started calling myself an artist again. so, who knows.

    you know what, put me down for thinking we are pretty damn special. fuck it. why not. i heard somewhere, i don’t remember the exact quote, but one of Hitler’s main guys said that artists were the only members of society that were politically unteachable. i like that, nobody is going to put constraints on an artist, as illustrated by Kurt, by Valuistics, by Mark, etc. we tried to put down laws and the artists fight with every tool in their toolbox. and if i tried to make a law out of that they would pour gas on it and burn that too. we could never get a house built.

    akbar, the giver of futile laws

    Reply
  38. markcreegan
    January 28, 2009

    Akbar,
    It is not just the work of those artists that I value, its what the discovery of the work and their ideas did to me. They are ones that I have studied the most, read about the most, and thought about the most, and discovered them at times when it significantly changed my perspective on art. And now that I think about it I would have to add John Cage to that list as well, and, if we go back far enough to earlier stages, there would be Sol Lewitt, Kurt Schwiters, Duchamp, Warhol, Rauschenberg, Pollack, Picasso, Van Gogh, Mad magazine, and Charles Schultz. I’m sure you have a similar list of some of these and other artists.

    What I meant by “judgments” is a closing off of the associative journey a work can lead me through. Obviously our own sensibilities, proclivities, and experiences also guide that thought process, I just try to temper that as much as possible so I don’t miss something. Perhaps I am not explaining this well, perhaps prejudices is a better word. I just want to give something a chance. I know you know all this, im talking to the choir here. And I know that there are days, when I am in a mood, tired, or lazy that make it impossible to really do this well. The biggest roadblock for me usually is my desire to see something new and imaginative, to be surprised by something. This can really make it difficult to just give things a chance. Also, the context in which something is shown affects that process. For example, during the recent exhibit of Jax artists at the MOCA, Jenny Hager’s installation surprised and delighted the hell out of me. If I saw that in New York I still would have loved it but I may’ve been less startled by it, the impact may have been a bit less because of this. Interesting.

    To illustrate this “giving something a chance” thing, I will bring in the other string being discussed here, craft. Craft means different things to me when I teach (usually) than when I am in a museum or gallery. In class I do want students to be attentive to craft because they are trying to learn how to manipulate materials. But in the galleries I understand that craft is just what is needed for the piece. Shoddy, rough, dilapidated can be just as useful as clean, precise, controlled. Even for a few class assignments ,like the 2D zine i have them do, requires a rougher aesthetic and a different way of thinking about craft. In my work, I use a lot of shoddy materials so usually I try to arrange them in very precise, controlled, and poised ways as contrast.

    We are a chatty bunch aint we?:)

    Reply
  39. markcreegan
    January 28, 2009

    I want to add that obviously my knowledge of modern and contemporary art is something that I bring to the experience of viewing art. And you would think that can prevent me from being “surprised” by newer work. Actually, its just the opposite. When I didnt know squat about art I would just dismiss something as a waste of time, or uncomprehensible. I would never examine further. But now if I can find a dialog going then that is interesting to me. Artists never work alone- they are always standing on shoulders. The “community” of artists is inherent.

    So, the openness I strive for involves my knowledge and if I come to a piece with an agenda in mind it kills any chance to be surprised (obviously).

    Reply
  40. Akbar Lightning
    January 28, 2009

    Mark, you would make an incredible lawyer, you are so evasive, yet I find that it has a kind of power to it, this resistance is so thorough that I am tempted to throw in the towel, and surrender to this ‘openness’ but i am compelled to push further by the little cracks I still see in your argument.

    for instance, when you say “It is not just the work of those artists that I value, its what the discovery of the work and their ideas did to me.” that sounds very good, but upon further inspection you neglect to answer the initial question which is ‘what?’ what did their work do to you? what exactly about the work surprised you?

    “What I meant by “judgments” is a closing off of the associative journey a work can lead me through. Obviously our own sensibilities, proclivities, and experiences also guide that thought process, I just try to temper that as much as possible so I don’t miss something.”

    all of this ‘associative’ talk, it derives from an initial association, and it is that initial association, that represents your expectation, because without expectation there can be no surprise. again, there is no logical way around that. i suppose i could ask you what are the prejudices that you have had difficulties eliminating? what are the boundaries that these other artists help you to liberate yourself from? but that leaves you too much room. more than that I, i don’t want to know about the jail cell these artists unlocked, i want to understand the key. what was it that attracted you? and when you say, it has to do with your process, and the associative journey, that’s about you, i want to know, after thoughtful admiration of these artists what you can say in deference to their work.

    in your work, you consciously use ‘shoddy’ materials and add value to them through ‘precision’ and ‘control.’ a thoughtful person like myself could deduce many things from such a thing, and I appreciate that you have an openness to that. but if you as an artist, have not examined what that means to you personally, why should I? i like your work, i like it because of this contrast, it represents to me an optimism, and a playfulness in a time that is hungering for these things, when children are overworked from the time they are 5 years old in institutions, and yet you are flipping that through using childlike materials and yet the precision and control adds another layer of paradox. that is how i read it, i think it has deep meaning to it, and i’m not sure i believe that you do not, that you are quite as detached as you are arguing.

    i am in danger of arguing against myself here, but i suppose i wonder what the danger would be in your work if you did have beliefs, which are quite different, i hope you agree, from prejudices. do you have beliefs about art?

    i suppose i find it kind of exhilarating when an artist is capable of a belief system, and again, i am not talking about dogma, but a set of values that drives them, that they test and engage with the world. again, i keep saying this, i think that you are doing just such a thing, even in this dialogue, but have yet to admit it. i am not convinced i know yet, whether it is conscious or unconscious. whether you are ‘at play’ here or not, and that is exciting. i suppose i don’t know the same thing about myself. yes, we are a talkative bunch.

    akbar the babbler.

    Reply
  41. jim draper
    January 29, 2009

    Art can’t be taught but it can be learned.

    Reply
  42. Akbar Lightning
    January 29, 2009

    i agree jim, art is a matter of self-realization perhaps. but then, why do we have art teachers? are they not, if we take your premise, paid students.

    might this power dynamic disrupt the natural unfolding process of an artists maturation, since it mirrors the subjugated form of the public school system?

    if we have no shared values how do we equate the art practice into professional, monetary values?

    perhaps artists should live and work together in communes, share the responsibility of one another.

    just some thoughts.
    a.l.

    Reply
  43. morrison
    January 29, 2009

    spam and the delusion of capital letters, this look at me rambling trying to pinpoint the lost feeling. existence.

    Reply
  44. Akbar Lightning
    January 29, 2009

    morrison, like Pip aboard the Pequod…

    Reply
  45. mark creegan
    February 2, 2009

    Im sorry akbar-baby, it has taken me so long to respond- my computer went kuhblooey and i also needed time to reflect on your provocative questions (as usual).
    Also i have been putting a show together all week, putting these thoughts into action i suppose..
    So you asked “what did their work do to you? what exactly about the work surprised you?” ( regarding Felix Gonzalez Torres, Richard Tuttle, Bruce Nauman, David Hammons, Tony Feher, and John Cage)

    SO whether its FGT piling candies for people to take, Hammons selling snowballs, Nauman walking around his studio, Tuttle putting an inch of string on the wall, Feher hanging a row of half filled water bottles, or Cage having a pianist sit silently at a piano for 4 minutes and 22 seconds, they pulled back the curtain for me, they made art seem more human in the same way seeing a movie star picking her nose does. They showed me that goofing off led to maximum creativity and, for that reason, isn’t really goofing off. They showed me that my mind interacts with the whole world and everything in it and my ability to create rests with that interaction and that my creativity is only limited by my imagination and awareness. They showed me a way of looking out for the alternative simply and only for my stupid amusement.

    I don’t know if this is satisfactory answers and I think if you or anyone thinks all this is B.S. is a perfectly valid point of view. I suppose if I accept that these things have guided me or helped me do things then these are beliefs, even though i do not expect others to follow them. I am sure glad to have had the opportunity to think about these by the way, so for that- thank you for the drilling kind sir!

    SO are these “laws” really YOUR core beliefs or simply ideas to discuss? or both?

    Reply
  46. Akbar Lightning
    February 3, 2009

    yo Marky Mark (like you haven’t been called that before, forgive me),

    it’s good to have you back. i like the descriptions of those artists, the particular works you point out. they seem to me to all at least be capable of being understood as having something to do with human connection, which i like a lot, the snowball idea, a gathering of snowflakes, known to be all completely unique, not exactly accidental.

    perhaps you are not aware of these ideological reasons for why you enjoy these works, you finish that paragraph with this:

    They showed me a way of looking out for the alternative simply and only for my stupid amusement.

    I do honestly wonder why you downgrade the experience. it would be one thing write amusement, but you add stupid. i don’t feel like going back and finding every instance, but the resistance i find in your arguments is centered somewhere around this. i believe play is a very important thing in a society that overworks its citizens, and it’s not that i am wishing to make it political, it’s just an awareness thing, to open up to that as an aspect of your working method, that it liberates people who might be feeling like slaves. i’m not lying when i say i find your work very compelling and i like it, but if I never talked to you, and I saw your work, i would say that there was a seriousness in it, a drawing attention to materials that evoke childhood. those were the times in my life when art was a great sanctuary for me, and I feel that in your work, i connect with it on that level.

    there is pedagogy in your work, like the water bottles piece, it is really great, but it’s greatness has something to do with an artist showing me that these trashy water bottle things can be used in a way that i completely forget what they are and i find beauty in them. if that is not a serious and fabulous ‘non-stupid’ thing, then this whole discussion really is a waste (i’m being a little dramatic).

    i just stopped mid-argument and went and looked at your work again. i saw the installation where you have a large book titled ‘Painting for Pleasure’ turned upside down. come on Mark, the gig is up! ha ha.

    anywhoo, thanks for asking me very directly about the laws, if they correspond to my true feelings. when i look them over, Yes, i would stand behind them. i operate on the notion that greatness is rare, and I allow myself that discernment. this permission is something i think allows for greatness to emerge in oneself. i like a lot of art, i go to shows, museums, and I look at things that I don’t exactly think are the great works, and I learn from them. but ‘great’ art is a rare and beautiful and mysterious thing, and it comes from great men and women who undergo a deep process of commitment, thought and experiment.

    there is a lot of work out there that I think is ‘stupid’, made by stupid and careless people, and I try not to spend too much of my finite time trying to cram their stupidity into my notions of greatness. it’s not hatred, it’s just like how some people don’t eat fast-food. unfortunately, i am not one of those, but i am when it comes to art. Ed Love, one of my professors, said you put shit in, you get shit out.

    to be more personal, my own personal law, the one I think is at the highest, at least so far in my process, i can’t get it any purer than this in my mind: Art is celebration. To draw that out a bit, it is a celebration of being, it is saying “yes, i am here and I am happy to be here.” it is the opposite of negativism, it is a declaration of independence. i think on some level, in some deep place you relate to that, it’s just that we have different forms of language for that.

    i think the ‘stupid amusement’ argument is kind of a Socratic ‘i know nothing’ position, and if it is that’s cool, but if you actually think it’s stupid i would challenge that. i sense in your arguments that there is something about liberation in what you like and what you make.

    Akbar has said enough.

    Reply
  47. Mark "couldn't resist" Creegan
    February 3, 2009

    AH you are on to my defense mechanisms!
    Yes, to qualify these things with words like “stupid” is defense against the feelings of complete uselessness to a society that has no use for the things that take up so much of my time and thinking.

    But its also a check on the OTHER defensive manuever that you touch on with the excellent “art is celebration”- the feeling that you are awake in a sea of drones, you are the one celebrating, you are the one truly liberated. A guy could become an asshole pretty quick having these feeling as I do, so I gots to be humble. I have to go at this art thing with a healthy sense of doubt and bemusement. I have to at least entertain the possiblility that all those folks who think what I do is useless and a waste of time may be right.

    But I can do this while also sticking it to em, making THEM question THEIR normative thinking while I do battle with mine. Of course, its a battle we are all in together, I am not priveledged in this respect. And as a friend of ours battles for his life I think I can call a gentle truce for a while and just let it be.

    In your painting “More than I Could Have Imagined” you have this expression on your face like you are scared. Its as if you are frightened of the creature growing tentacles, or perhaps you are afraid of what is coming next? Or is it confusion? Yes, brother we are very alike.
    Also, what is the significance of the female form in your work? ANd how about the surreal- cyborg aspect of it all? Inquiring minds want to know!

    Reply
  48. Akbar Lightning
    February 3, 2009

    the irony here, as I fight to convince others of the importance of consciousness in my work, I go into my studio and see that I need play, and so I have been playing a bit more, opening up to mindlessness, that is the truth. balance is the answer we are finding together. the ying and yang, if anything describes the discussion between you Mark and I, it is this. yet, both are parts of a whole.

    to remain in ying, i will say i find a deep humility and acknowledging the ‘calling’ and then setting myself to live ‘up’ to it. in other words, to try and make things that are valuable to the world, because of that feeling you describe, the strange non-utility of our lifestyle. anyways, i’m not really arguing here, just laying out the way i have given reason to my orientation.

    i do think that artists are essential to a healthy society, and that we ought to honor ourselves as such, without placing ourselves above others, but also, more importantly, not submitting to being less than others. it is very tempting to think that because we do not directly help the poor, that we are a part of the problem, as I sometimes feel, but nonetheless when i go to my spiritual center, my God tells me that I ought to keep moving forward as an artist. it does not make sense to me sometimes, but then I think about the larger picture, about the great history of humanity and how this temptation for artists, who are poorly suited for progressive activism, has always been there, and how they had to always do things that made very little rational sense. and because of that we have a great tradition.

    anyways, i’m rambling. suffice it to say that approaching the mystery of art-making is a humbling experience.

    as far as my work. full disclosure, that look on my face is probably ‘tired’, but that painting came to describe for me the feeling of awe that I have over the blessings I have received in this life. i had a very troubled beginning, let’s just say i did not have a lot of opportunities, but i was very devoted to my art, and it has taken me on amazing adventures, ‘more than i could have imagined’. the composition was built to reflect the extension/projection that i feel happens when the imagination expresses itself in art.

    my art, at its root is about self-realization, and the fractured nature of this process. the robotic elements reflects my interest in coming technology trends and how that affects our sense of embodiment.

    when I was told in school that the Greeks felt the human form was the highest symbol of beauty and rational form, that made sense to me, still does. i see the exploration of this, in conjunction with the body’s coming transformation, a wonderful confluence of ideas. i like to try and do something that has been done a million times and try to make it anew. as far as females go, it’s a long story. suffice it to say that making a work of masculine beauty is one of my primary goals as an artist. Michelangelo’s male figures are as close to perfection as I’ve seen, and I hope one day to achieve something honoring the male form. obviously he had a certain advantage over me in this respect, but that only adds to the challenge.

    akbar in a nutshell

    Reply
  49. AC
    February 8, 2009

    Artists aren’t needed for a healthy society but they are always found in one. I see artists as being a sort of resonance within society. I don’t think you teach art, However, you do teach the ability to use whatever tool is needed for the artist to get the message across. The better one is with the tool the clearer the message. And remember artists are best understood not in there actions but in there reactions!

    Reply
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    March 16, 2011

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    Reply

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