Studio Hours Fall 2021
The contemplative part of what we do as artists, the thinking and considering part of our process, consists of many questions. In this post, I am considering some of those questions.
What kind of work do I look at?
While I find Contemporary artists and makers very interesting, and the artworks very exciting at times, I feel like I am still growing up and not fully ready for much of what I see. Of course, I do not mean that concerning my readiness to appreciate the art. However, my focus is upon discovering myself and letting that development happen in a way that feels natural. I think of it as similar to the way we might learn about building a residential structure.
It was not long ago that I 'decided' to develop as an artist, and even then, it took a couple to three years before I started to truly begin to 'see' and 'hear' the art part of artworks. I mean, I feel like I am moving at hyperspeed, trying to catch up with my cohorts who may have been involved or concerned with art since their 20's or 30's, maybe even earlier. I, myself, have not, so I've got so much catching up to do.
That being the case, my self-assessment is that I'm still absorbing and learning the language of art. I'm connecting with the foundational artists of the movements and period that is mostly the 1960's-1980's... Contemporary Art, but not contemporary art (although I do look at some more contemporary artists and artworks).
Again, I reiterate, I am moving at a hyperspeed, however. I spend a lot of time looking at works that speak to my aesthetic and my current spirit of expression. My aesthetic is emerging to appreciate the works by Paik, Viola, Oursler, and Rist...while considering the messaging behind works by artists such as Serra and Oldenburg, Adrian Piper, Howardina Pindel, and more contemporary artists such as Alexander Calder and Martin Puryear. However, more connected to the spirit of my expression are works from more contemporary artists such as Carrie Mae Weems, Zanele Muholi, architect Mario Gooden, and textile artist Amanda Williams...
Then there are these eternal questions: What is art? Does art have to have meaning?
I have had many conversations regarding these fundamentally philosophical questions. Conversations with cohorts of grad school, with educators, with people on the street as well. It never gets easier to come up with a convincing answer, principally because the values of the listener affect the argument.
One of my friends who is an MFA documentarian says, art is only something made by humans for purely emotional oe aesthetic experience as a purpose. I didn't disagree, but I did refine the thought by suggesting that art is anything and everything that is made with the purpose in mind at the moment of creation to bring a pleasure beyond the functional purpose. So then a chair can be a chair, but can be art as well when created with the purpose of connecting aesthetically.
There are many artists and critics who connect a qualitative measure to the answers to these questions. I believe that formal analysis as well as an analysis of the expressional aspect of a piece of work are relevant only to a particular audience. I do not believe that something that does not please me, or does not measure up to some academic or society of art critic, should be automatically disqualified as art.
Craft as a noun seems to be a thing that is made in a medium not currently considered a fine art medium or process (painting, drawing, sculpture, photography, etc). Craft as a process, the act of creating via a process that can be refined, and perhaps qualitatively analyzed objectively. Craft is definitively part of making an artwork, but if not being applied to the act of creating art, then its output is not inherently art. I would love to have a debate on that basis, and I presume that I should be doing some research to determine what some other artists have shared with the world in their opinion.
Rob J Phillips