The Meaningless Thoughts of an Artist

I frequent a lot of online art forums. I am crazy. I sort of salivate over an anonymous community of other artists and want to bond with them. Just not in real life. Keep it on the internet where I don’t have to have any real human interaction. Sometimes I wonder if I’m looking for kin. I never really find any. Maybe then I’d want to know them personally. I find it extremely surprising what viewpoints I discover from all the other artists out there in the world. I really do. I have strange expectations I suppose. I would think we would have far more in common than we would not, but that isn’t so. It’s not good to have expectations of anyone really. That sets you up for disappointments. I know this fact, so I really try hard not to have any expectations for any sort of life on Earth.

The general subject of dreams, images and self-expression came up somewhere and someone made an obvious point about the differences in art and mere self expression. He said, “It would seem to me that ART is something more than mere expression of self-expression. ART involves an expression which has taken a special form… employing some consideration of the aesthetic. A baby crying because he is hungry is expressing himself… but it’s not ART. A drunk in the bar who punches another drunk in the face because he said something about his girlfriend is expressing himself as well… but ART? No. A group a teenagers who fly past you on the highway screaming profanities and mooning you are also expressing themselves… but again this is not ART. Art can involve elements that are ugly, elements of the horrific, elements of the seemingly crude… as well as the skillful, polished and beautiful. Ultimately, ART employs a visual language in a manner that goes beyond mere self-expression. Art also presumes an audience who is in agreement that a given work is art. I can create something that I imagine expresses the most deeply felt and profound meanings, but if it doesn’t resonate with an audience… if others don’t recognize my efforts as art… then I’m merely fooling myself.”

While most of this is obvious, it could become an interesting conversation if this person wasn’t such a hard ass, as I’ve come to know his personality. I agree with what he says here, but not 100% because I do think you can punch someone in a bar as a form of art. And more specifically, personally, art for art sake/art therapy, and the like, who it resonates with, when mundane art can get to be “bad” art, or when very personal art can become work that comes to resonate very well with audiences – all this gets very interesting.

For instance, I agree very much on allowing the audience to interpret the work fully. My work is VERY personal and while I am making it, it borders on art therapy. But the finished product happens to resonate with my audience (in most cases). Only if asked will I disclose personal factors about the work because I think it’s important to allow the viewer their own interpretation. I feel that once the work is completed, it really isn’t mine anymore, or rather, it has a new phase in its life with a new relationship(s). My personal relationship with the work has past. Its new life begins once it is displayed on a gallery wall. It is no longer any kind of therapy. It can’t be. And I really can’t tell viewers of my attachments to these pieces either. My work becomes a public piece. It everybody’s art, not just mine.

And does art have to have an audience? I think that might be commerce he’s talking about. There is art for art sake. That’s still art even if you as the artist are the only audience. Creator and viewer in one: you still count if you were moved. The moved Prime Mover, I guess you’d be. Biased as hell, but it still counts I think. Henry Darger NEVER intended for any of his work to be seen by another human being. Did he need someone else to call it art before it was art? No.

Okay, then there was this other subject of beauty and aesthetics, and if it even matters.

I was so on the fence about that. When I started reading about it, I was do depressed at the moment. I wrote:

Sometimes I wonder if beauty matters in the contemporary art world. Maybe tonight I am feeling beaten down, sad, depressed, or something like that. It just seems like “clever” always wins. Shock, clever, ironic, kitsch, lowbrow/comic illustration, little girls with big eyes and what appears to be Encephalitis or Achondrogenesis, altercations on Ren and Stimpy, etc, etc, ad nauseum…

WTF? I looked back the next night and thought I must have been pretty damn low that night. But the subject ended up taking a turn anyway to beauty, aesthetics and the difference between that and the sublime, and suddenly, everyone is bashing Andy Warhol. Now I am not a giant Warhol fan, but come on. He did something that turned contemporary art on its head just a little now. Give the guy some props. No, they wouldn’t be having it. A half a dozen people were calling him a moron. They were taking quotes out of his journal and actually thinking he was sincere when he wrote things like:

“I never think that people die. They just go to department stores.”


I think there are a lot of differences between beauty, the sublime, aesthetics, and what is and isn’t art. There’s are a lot of personal fucking opinions of the viewers that gauge each. I don’t think it is something any one of us can make one blanket statement about and be right on the money. There are a lot of factors and a lot of “depends” in regards to each piece of artwork being discussed. In general terms, does beauty matter? Yes, I suppose it does. I think of it from the perspective of a collector and I buy what is beautiful to me. It might not be sublime to some people. It might have imperfections, which to me makes it aesthetic to me, but that’s how I like the work I hang in my house. I like the raw, the handmade, the honest and the primal stuff. To me this is beautiful and the more pure it is, the more sublime. It just surprises me how many conservative traditionalists are out there. I guess I just expected more from artists, no matter what they create.

I just felt like rambling. Good night.

3 thoughts on “The Meaningless Thoughts of an Artist

  1. Kel January 18, 2011 / 5:08 am

    ramble on.

  2. hoochmonkey9 January 19, 2011 / 4:59 am

    I’m not the biggest Warhol fan either, but i’m not sure if there was another person in the second half of the 20th century that could be considered more of an ARTIST than Warhol. he tried to make everything he touched, looked at, visited, etc. into art of some sort. didn’t always succeed, but like you said, give the man his props.

  3. Kathy Hodge January 21, 2011 / 6:43 am

    I agree that self-expression isn’t always art, it can be the raw material, but has to go beyond, that’s why it’s so hard! I’d like to add that introspection isn’t always art either, it seems like there’s a lot of self-indulgent introspection posing as art lately.

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