|One of Jane Hunt's incredible landscapes. Visit her website for more.|
This is something almost universally considered art. I'm a huge fan of Jane Hunt - I think her landscapes and especially her use of color are revolutionary.
Now take a look at this.
|Barnett Newman's painting sold for $43.8 million.|
Also, take a look at this piece in the Tate Modern in London, one of the world's most renowned museums.
|Untitled Painting by Art & Language (Michael Baldwin). Mirror on canvas.|
This post isn't going to be an attack on modern art - in fact, it'll be the opposite.
Why is it that after seeing so many paintings, pieces, and sculptures in the National Gallery and at the Tate a few years ago, the one of the mirror is the one that sticks the strongest in my mind? It's the one I remember straight away from my trip to Britain. If someone asked me what art I saw in Britain, I'd immediately reply with this one (and, secondly, Turner's seascapes - cool story, THERE'S GOING TO BE A MOVIE COMING OUT SOON ABOUT TURNER!!!).
I know some modern art is laughable. A lot of it is a joke, actually. But there are some pieces that are so powerful in the oddest ways simply because it challenges the idea of art. What is art? And who decides?
Is art something that takes an incredible amount of technical skill to master? When we praise art, are we praising the artist or the art? What I mean is, are we praising the technical skills or the impact of the piece? The interesting thing about modern art is that so much of it is so simple, the idea of technical skills being required in art is challenged. What's required more is a sense of creativity, of impact, of a combat between the viewer and the piece.
What stuck to me about the Mirror piece (as I'll call it from now on) is just how true it was. In my mind (something I'm trying to come to terms with is that regardless of what the artist intended, the viewer's take on a piece can be just as true as the artist's, if not more so), the Mirror piece represents what we come into art with. We want to see what we expect to see. We want to see landscapes and portraits and historical battles and then we'll wipe our hands and walk out of the museum, calling it a day without remembering even one piece or one name unless it's a Da Vinci. The Mirror piece is almost a joke, a furious surrender. "You came into the museum looking for yourself, then here, I'm giving it to you. A mirror. Look at your self. Happy? No need to be challenged. Now get out."
So much of art depends on our own perspectives, be it visual art, literary art, musical, etc. Say you read a classic without knowing it's a classic. You're bored and slog through it, and think it sucked. But wait! Now you find out it's a classic. And then you reread and find all the beautiful turns of phrases you missed before, the metaphors, the allegories.
How should we come into art? It's impossibly hard to come in with no expectations at all. The very word 'art' springs forth so many emotions and memories. It's too loaded of a word. If modern art was called something else (not saying that it isn't art) then I feel people, including me, might be more accepting of it. Call it an 'experience' or a 'journey', which I feel is more accurate. Modern art caused me to reevaluate my entire concept of art. Although I still think Jane Hunt's work is absolutely stunning, it's not as powerful as Baldwin's Mirror (for me, at least). It didn't cause a change in my thinking. (I'm not talking much about Newman's blue painting because I just wanted to show how insane the price of it is. But who knows, it's their money, they know investments more than I do (they're millionaires, I'm not)).
So what is art supposed to be? Is it supposed to be about the artist - the technical mastery - or about the piece itself, alone, and unsupported - the impact of the art? Should art cause a change in thinking? Is it required to? If so, Jane Hunt's work would only be considered art for artists desiring to learn her style. Yet it is art in the aesthetic and traditional way.
Few would consider the Mirror piece to be about aesthetics. Yet is it art if it's not about aesthetics?
In this last century, the definition of visual art has changed to a much broader umbrella. Aesthetic quality no longer fences the definition of art. Art has become broader and means so much more than it ever used to, sometimes with confusing results.
I'm no modern artist. I paint landscapes and portraits and I write stories in the traditional sense. I'm trying to think of a way that literature can expand like visual arts has. It's already expanded in terms of experimental literature, a niche which few people know of (the only truly experimental things I've read were in school).
But art is a tricky word. Putting limitations on art (art, people! It has no limits!) stunts its growth.
Now I really want to know who the gatekeepers are that define art. Because it's true, I wouldn't think of the Mirror piece as art unless it was in the Tate (meaning, someone told me it's Art, go look and find the art in it). And is it truly art if you have to search for the art? Sometimes it is our own perceptions that cloud our visions, and forcing us to search for art in a piece tends to clear the clouds (even if it feels pretentious at times).
Basically, what is art?
Please please discuss! I have no answers for you.