Can Art be Defined?

I have just come from a four day art retreat, and this afternoon I ran across a most interesting post on Scoutie Girl, written by Gwyn Michael. Usually, I scan posts for the good parts, but I read every word of this post today. It was timely for me.

In it are several ideas or theories of how we should define art and artists. I am not sure I agree with any of them:

  • art must change people
  • art must be shared with others, if it never leaves the studio, it is not art
  • art overcomes resistance, ignores the voice of doubt, and is something worth making
  • it is risky and human
  • it comes from the soul
  • it requires the artist to dig deep and share intimate things
Puts a lot of responsibility on the art and the artist, doesn't it?

But, it did remind me of a story.... several years ago, I took a week long, intensive class at an art school on surface design for fabric. During introductions the first day, everyone in class introduced herself as an artist and listed all of the classes and teachers on their resumes.  When it was my turn, I said I had never really considered myself an artist. At that point, I had worked as a designer in the craft industry for more than 25 years, and I felt a line between art and craft...admittedly the line is thin and always shifting, but most people who call themselves artists would die to be caught crafting.

Well, the other folks in class were appalled at my timidity and asked me to chant with them, "I am an artist!" I found it quite funny.

During the week, we did small projects and continually worked on one large project to present at the end of class. For sure there was not one project I would have called art. One woman actually presented her paint rag as her art. No joke.

Mid week, the teacher pulled me aside to tell me that since I was the only person in the class to actually make a living with what I do, that I should not be concerned about how to define myself. Good. I wasn't. I got the feeling she was just tolerating the people in class who called themselves artists.

What I think about art and artists:

  • taking a zillion art classes does not make you an artist or what you do art
  • calling yourself an artist, and your stuff art, does not necessarily make it so
  • I think art is meant to be shared, but if there is an amazing piece lost in an attic, does it cease to be art?
  • art does not have to come from some deep intimate place can simply be something pleasant or interesting or something we just like to look at without deep meaning attached
  • art can change situations and people but that is not a requirement to be called art
  • this is a very deep subject and can be discussed and digested forever without a definitive answer
All that to say that I cannot define it and maybe art is different things to different people. Does it need a definition?

Just take your Vitamin C and make something!

1 creative thoughts:

gwyn { April 14, 2011 at 10:00 AM }
Kim I love your take on this. I must say I don't really think there are any right answers to this question and certainly I don't claim to know, but still it is a question that keeps coming up. From the days in art school when there was a clear division between "fine art" and "applied arts" that I did not agree with. BTW I was in the applied arts as an illustration major. I didn't see how my painting for advertising made it less art than a painting intended for a gallery.

I like the last line.

Just take your Vitamin C and make something!

I'm on it!

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