The Laws of Nature

Tuesday, May 18, 2010



Art & Fear: Observations on the perils (and rewards) of artmaking
by Bayles & Orland

Acceptance - we all want it. The alternative is either rejection or indifference and neither is satisfying. The authors ask us to consider this question regarding acceptance: When your work is counted, will it be counted as art? I'm hoping so. It's neither craft, nor hobby, nor decoration. It's art.

Acceptance and approval are powers held by others, whether they be friends, classmates, curators ... or author of the definitive history of your chosen medium. I suppose this should intimidate me, but it doesn't because there's nothing that I can do about it. My conscience tells me to create art in my own voice and by my own devices. I can't paint to gain acceptance, but I can hope that what I produce may find it.

The authors also remark on something we're all familiar with: the acceptance of an artist's work posthumously. The explanation offered makes sense: at any given moment, the world offers vastly more support to work it already understands - namely, art that's already been around for a generation or a century. Expressions of truly new ideas often fail to qualify as even bad art - they're simply viewed as no art at all.

Therefore, if we're motivated by acceptance then our work will probably be more conventional and identifiable as "art." The authors point out that this isn't necessarily a bad thing - at least for beginning artists who learn by recapitulation. But, once having done that, the far greater danger is not that the artist will fail to learn anything from the past, but will fail to teach anything new in the future. I believe that we artists have an obligation to create work that enhances and moves forward the "dialogue" in art. It's essential to the life of the discipline.

This takes us to a whole other level - one that moves us beyond seeking acceptance to making authentic and original art.

The real question about acceptance is not whether your work will be viewed as art, but whether it will be viewed as your art.

What are your thoughts?


Elizabeth Seaver said...

I think that has been the central question of my art life--What is my unique voice and style? And all along the way the pull to make art that is more traditional in use of medium or in subject (and therefore, more "saleable") has really been fierce.

Taking that more traditional route and learning about many media has been a good thing, overall, I think. Because it eventually led me to mix up the media in my work. I think I am finally to a place which is more authentically me.

PAMO said...

Shut out the external voices and find self acceptance of your work. Stop worrying about if others think it is "art". Do your best- seek to improve- if you don't feel energized- move on. In the end- it only matters how you feel about your work. If others appreciate it- that's a bonus. You won't be around to know if your work is appreciated posthumously.
I've come to believe that all this talk about craft, hobby, decoration versus "art" is just a way for others to create levels and distinctions and classes- to be better than- to feel better than. I've chosen to move on from that- it's not who I am- it's not who I choose to be.
I like it when others appreciate my art- but I can't worry it. Seeking acceptance is a waste of time and energy and is a major distraction for anyone making art. Do your thing, make your art, find self acceptance- this strength will show in your art.

-Don said...

I think Buckcherry sums up this -and my creative life to this point - quite nicely with their song, "So Far". I've quoted their chorus before, but felt the whole song fits within the context of today's post about acceptance. (Since they are prone to profanity, I have blipped a few words,)

"I'll tell you how the story's told
I always wanted so much more
And way on down the road
I caught a glimpse of the sunlight
Working on my favourite thing
Using every piece of me
Drinking, and smoking, and (blip)ing, and making nothing

I didn't do it for money, I did it all for free
I did it all to fill the (blip)ing hole inside of me

So far its working out
Everything's different now
So far the mean machine
Hasn't got the best of me
So far

Think about what you know
Forget about what your told
See how your story grows
And let it come from your own mind
Do all your favorite things
Cover it with all your dreams
Breathe it, and smoke it, and (blip) it, and make it something

I didn't do it for money, I did it all for free
I did it all to fill the (blip)ing hole inside of me

So far its working out
Everythings different now
So far the mean machine
Hasn't got the best of me
So far...

I'll tell you how the story's told
I always wanted so much more
And way on down the road
I caught a glimpse of the sunlight

I didn't do it for money, I did it all for free
I did it all to fill the (blip)ing hole inside of me

And so far its working out
Everythings different now
So far the mean machine
Hasn't got the best of me
So far..."

Happy Creating...


Dan Kent said...

GO PAMO! (You said it so well.) And Don, you are a tough act to follow. Do you dance too?

Well on Egmont's directory, I was classified as an illustrator. First I was taken aback, and then I thought of Andrew Wyeth and figured I could be in far worse company. And I was, of course, grateful to be mentioned at all.

This is because I have never thought of myself as an illustrator, but rather as an art.., as an art.. (sorry for the stutter.) But then again, I can see where I'm headed and what I plan to do and no one else can.

It is interesting though, I outline on very small paper in ink and then color with watercolor. If I were to outline with black paint and color with oil or acrylic on a large surface, like Alice Neel or Myrna Wacknov, there'd be no question but that it would be art, and not illustration.

Classifications are funny that way.

So, in sum, I don't care what you call me folks, as long as you call me!

hwfarber said...

I think I learned very early in life that I could survive without acceptance & approval (just a bit odd). It was not hard to bring that WTH attitude to my artwork.

I wish I knew the meaning of "blip" in Don's song--never heard of Buckcherry (I kept reading it as Blackcherry).

Celeste Bergin said...

Dan, I have to reply to you--the term "illustrator" in my former world was the highest praise. I am always taken aback when I find out that some people regard illustrators as "2nd rate artists" (?) REALLY? All the artists I know who were or are working illustrators are the BEST fine artists. It really is not an insult--it is a huge compliment. Funny, how one word means such different things to people!

I wonder if any of my paintings will make it into the next century--I hope they will--but I am not painting for any particular reason, aside from the fact that it seems like it has to be my path.

Kathy said...

Hi Elizabeth - that makes sense. When I learned to play the piano I had to learned the "classics" before I could make the music my own. That's true of all disciplines and seems to be the path of most artists.

Hi Pam - yes, indeed. It's so very important to impart to your work who you are. I do believe, as you know, that there is a difference between "fine art" and "craft," and I don't think this an elitist distinction. It's like the difference between heart surgeon and general practitioner. They're both involved in the medical arts, but there's a difference in how they practice it. That doesn't mean that one is better than the other since they are both necessary. No value judgement is imposed. Simply, they're different yet related.

Hi Don -great lyrics! Thanks.

Hi Dan - I'll definitely "call" you! I don't think of you as an illustrator, either, but I also agree with Celeste. Labels are tricky.

Hi Celeste - thanks for offering this perspective about illustration. And, I suspect that your paintings will make it into the next century.

-Don said...

Hallie... Buckcherry is a hard-rocking band with a propensity for naughtiness. However, they have written some pretty deep and insightful songs - if you can get past the profanity. As for the "blips", they are there to replace, as Ralphy put it in the movie "A Christmas Story", "...THE word, the big one, the queen-mother of dirty words..."

BTW, I love your WTH attitude. It's refreshing and inspiring.