Art is as art does

Being a habitual daydreamer and multitasker, I’m never satisfied with any single occupation of my time and thoughts.  I spend a lot of my day mentally frivolous, designing my dinner or sifting through my life experiences as they occur to me (or, when I’m feeling indulgent, considering my future as a wildly successful artist).  But, unsurprisingly, I also spend a lot of time thinking about Art.  As much of this mental exercise takes place at either of my work places (one a print gallery, the other a custom frame shop), this is a very natural distraction.  It’s so easy to take art for granted though, and it really deserves a lot of consideration.  Art is all around us in a multitude of forms and formats, after all.  I have a lot of respect for art’s mundane functions, but my personal interest is more high-minded in general.

So what is art to me?  What is art to you?  It has a different meaning to each of us and speaks on different levels, sometimes through our personal experiences, sometimes academically.  As an artist, I have a lot of limits.  I strive, in general, to communicate an idea or a story.  So many artists strive instead to convey emotion, and I admire that a lot, but art is also what we take away from it, and I’m probably too insecure to feel comfortable putting my heart into a picture without glossing it over with representational, intellectually accessible figures that probably have more to do with who or how I want to be rather than who I am.  I intellectualize MY art, but when I’m in the right mindset I can appreciate other artists’ work for what it says to me rather than what the artist was necessarily feeling at the time.  This subjectivity is so vital (and perhaps more valid than objectivity) in human nature and culture that it can be hard to look out from our own viewpoint and understand that other people can have a radically different understanding of the same image (or book, or poem, or song, or dance, or what have you).

I’m not particularly involved in the Art world; I don’t live in New York or Santa Fe, I don’t keep up with what the latest post-modernists are thinking about doing… from my artistically isolated point of view it seems like the art world is made up of thousands of nations, each talking at each other about different things, and that everyone else is too busy talking over everyone else they don’t even realize they’re not speaking the same language.  There used to be art movement, and they were largely intellectually fuelled; artists discovering what art meant to them or to the average person.  They were discussing the meaning of art, both for itself and for the sake of expression in general.  It seems as though the Art In-Crowd is directionless and treading water lately.  Maybe history will disagree.

I don’t really have a point, I suppose, but I’m always curious to hear how other people feel about art.  How do you go about reading a picture?  Is your immediate feeling more important than understanding what the artist was attempting?  If you were the artist, would you have made the same choices?

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