Art for Artists' Sake
New -- 1 April 2005
When it comes to art, the primary consideration is... what constitutes art? On the one hand...
Art is in the Eyes of the Promoter
On the other hand...
Art is whatever an artist or artists might want to claim as their offspring.
With respect to the latter, however, the fact that no one understands the artist does not in any manner imply that what the alleged artist has conjured up is in fact art. Such so-called art is far more likely to simply reflect the psychological -- and to a lesser extent the physical and spiritual -- health of the conjurer.
This is not to imply that many others may in fact find the wild artistic rantings of an artist to be highly stimulating and thus of great value to the world, i.e. that part of the world's population who find it stimulating. There are simply far too many examples from the world of mainstream art wherein clearly insane individuals have turned out work which the rest of the world -- at one time or another -- has found enormously appealing. Vincent Van Gogh immediately springs to mind. Nevertheless, there are a lot of essentially crazed artists whose work is essentially garbage.
Or to be more charitable: garbaaaage. (Really slur the ahhhhh...)
The key to what constitutes art seems to be those works of creativity which appeal to others. Clearly, this is one of those strange twists of fate whereby external validation becomes far more important than internal validation. Thus instead of listening to the sound of one's own drummer -- no matter how lethargic or hyperactive that drummer might be -- one must instead listen to the raves and snorts of others.
As such, “art “is anti-beneficient to one's own personal ego and growth pattern. Clearly anyone whose sense of self worth depends upon the fickle tastes of others is not someone on the track to self-empowerment and individual enlightenment. And yet, to have one's creativity described as art assumes, a priori, that others are willing to enthusiastically label one's effort in just that manner.
It has been said that no one should attempt any mode of creativity unless not creating the work is far more trouble than creating it. This essay, for example, should not be written unless its author is plagued with the words and phrases screaming through the rain forests of his mind, demanding to be released upon an unsuspecting world -- even if the screaming is somewhat muted on certain subjects.
Another view is that the essary should be created if creating the essay -- i.e. work of art -- is just a whole lot of fun. Fun supercedes almost all other reasons for doing anything.
In the ideal mode -- the one where the artist is healthy and self-actualized -- art is done for the sake of the artist -- Art for the Artist's Sake. The fundamental purpose is that in a world obviously at odds with reason and sanity, the one place wherein an individual can set it right and thereafter allow others to see the beauty and truth which might have been -- is in that individual's art. Whether painting, writing, sculpture, or any of a vast diversity of modes of expression, art does not demand or require others see the artist's beauty and truth, but instead rather lies in wait for those with eyes to see, ears to hear, hands to feel, and so forth. The creative act in this idealized frame thus becomes the example which others can follow or ignore, depending entirely upon their own preferences and personalized forms of madness and insanity.
On this fundamental level, art is for the artist. It's the individual attempt at Creating Reality, their individualized pursuit of happiness which parenthetically can be shared by others -- but which never, never legislates, creates laws and issues orders which demand or limit such sharing.
However... there are those creative people who enjoy and/or pursue the title of “artiste” -- it always being preferable to add a vowel to an English word in order to make it sound foreign, and thus more exotic, more artistic, more glamorous. “Artist” is okay, but “Artiste” -- with a strong, flairing accent on the last syllable -- is really where it's at.
Artists of this type also have the strange idea that being compensated for their efforts goes a long ways toward their being able to continue to create with abandon, and at the same time avoid the mundane routines of acquiring money for rent and sustenance by working in some humdrum business or another. The compensation which is preferred is, of course, money. Not just cheap laurels, testimonies with or without parchment, or tokens of “Oh, isn't that lovely!” Cold, hard cash is what is desired -- preferably under the table and not subject to taxes, commissions, or third party sharing.
Many forms of creative art requires considerable amounts of money just in order to consummate the creative urges. Bronze sculptures, for example, are just not cheap! There are the costs of structural elements (such as iron), the clay and tools to mold it, application of rubber molds, casts, waxes, etceteras -- etceteras are particularly expensive these days -- not to mention foundry costs, application of patimas, and of course, the cost of bulk bronze (i.e. copper and tin). Painting may seem cheap in comparison, but check out the price of paints -- not to mention frames. Framing has become one of the really big money makers in recent times. In all respects, artists must contend with the cost of the materials and tools of their art -- a simple fact of life! They must also contend with non-artists in the pursuit of their art and its preservation (see, e.g. Art Renewal.com).
Which brings us to the part about Selling Art. It has been said that imitation is the sincerest form of compliment. [It's also called plagarism.] Well folks, being paid a whole chunk of money for your creative effort ain't bad either! A couple of thousand dollars worth of compliments is amazingly sincere and is invariably well received!
This brings us to the apparent quandary of why some alleged art is bringing in so much money for its creator(s) and why other creative efforts are going begging, so to speak. Why on the one hand is the obvious garbaaaage going for thousands when that truly beautiful and inspiring work can't be sold for less than cost? It is, as the King of Siam once remarked, “a puzzlement.”
Actually, there's no puzzle at all. In the modern world of art, the simple truth is that:
Art is in the Eyes of the Promoter
[I think we mentioned this fact earlier, but I did want to emphasize it. It's that part of making the world a better place by defining a truth as succinctly as possible. And I'm really enamored with the phrase.]
When it comes to external validation of the “show me the money” kind, art is defined by the marketing, advertising, public relations, and point blank promotion of the art and the artist. Art which rests on its laurels, its inherent worth, may be much appreciated, but art which utilizes the latest in marketing techniques will be the stuff which cause their creators to smile all the way to the bank.
For example, artists which specialize in art of the rich will be more likely to avoid the “starving artist” label. An essential element in this regard is the essential need to educate and enlighten the well-to-do buyer, i.e. market the hell out of the art to the yokel who has more money than tastes. Better yet, target the individuals who have other people's money to spend, and thus can be unaccountably generous and earnest patrons of the arts of the highest magnitude.
(Just remember that patrons are a good thing, but being patronizing is not.)
Commercial interests, museums with wealthy patrons of little or no real artistic tendencies, governmental bureaucracies who are uncommonly susceptible to all manner of influence, and/or art groups which treasure the “I've never seen anything like that before!” are the ideal targets. The difficulty, however, with so-called professional artists and experienced patrons of the arts -- the ones making buying decisions -- is that at some point they've seen so much art that it's only the truly innovative which even gets their attention -- never mind that the latest fad can be expected to have the half life of a moth.
Conversely, other purchasers seem bound to old themes and old techniques, wherein art is defined by tradition. If you can't tell in an instance that it's a cowboy with a rope, then it's not likely to make the grade.
One of the premier examples of professionals choosing between real art and faint imitations is the competition for the Vietnam War Memorial located in Washington, DC. Most of the submitted works were traditional sculptures of heroic individuals struggling in the ultimate futility of war. But also in the running was what has come to be known as “The Wall”. The good news is that the latter won out and the Vietnam War Memorial has became a true memorial, a wall of names embossed on black -- a style which has generated more emotion and endearment than centuries of more tradtional art. This is also a style which has been copied in various innovative forms to honor local heroes of former wars -- e.g. fallen soldiers from the La Quinta, California area and other locations throughout the United States.
The bad news is that the traditionalists insisted on a second Vietnam War Memorial sculpture. This was constructed and placed near The Wall. It is routinely ignored.
What then is the advice one might give the budding artist? Other than go into medicine and specialize in diseases of the rich? First all, master your trade. Then build up an inventory. (This usually suggests you first toss the first one hundred attempts.) Then promote, promote, promote.
You might also want to consider marrying a rich, independent type to help pay the rent in the interim. Just be sure to call it "true love".
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