Talent or skill…or is it even art?
I’ve had some pretty lively discussions with artist friends this week about what is authentic art. Boy, that is a can of worms. Fair warning; there is no definitive answer to this question but come along for the ride.
We were reviewing submissions for the gallery for next year (2019). About 50 artists entered their portfolios this year for about seven slots. This is usually a good variety (some years we’ve had up to 200 entries). The committee was also given a list of about 15 artists to consider who didn’t actually apply but who might add to quality of the line up. (Debatable.)
The committee is comprised primarily of professional artists and art teachers. But…we do not always agree on what would make a good exhibit. A little background is that this is a public art gallery so we have to be somewhat cognizant of our audience and the fact that we are receiving tax dollars. We like to bring in new and different work but we’re not out to shock our audience. We also understand that many people enjoy viewing art they are familiar with. Trying to meets the needs of everyone is challenging.
A little more background. I have been on this committee for about 30 years, and was director of the arts center and gallery for many of those years. I’m back to being just a citizen volunteer now. And I’ve been a professional artist for 35 years. I’ve probably seen more art than most people will see in several lifetimes.
And I’m still confused.
I believe that some people are endowed at birth with talent. That is a given aptitude for doing whatever they are going to do, whether it’s shooting a basket or drawing a portrait or playing a musical instrument. Skill, on the other hand, requires some work. Continuous practice, that 10,000 hours thing. I appreciate that.
But sometimes I’m reminded of the story about the Emperor’s New Clothes. I just feel as if someone is pulling the wool over my eyes and I want to be that kid that says, “Hey, he’s naked!” I look at a piece of art and wonder, is that really art? Or is it just hype? I try looking beyond the artist to see where they’re coming from.
For instance, here is a photo of an installation piece by Felix Gonzalez-Torres of a pile of candy. Really? That is art? Not to me it isn’t, but a whole lot of high-highfalutin’ people think it is. I think it is good marketing. Just my humble opinion.
Or how about a helicopter hung in the stairwell of the Museum of Modern Art? Art? Or is it engineering? Who really gets credit for this? By the way, they also own Andrew Wyeth’s Christina’s World which is exhibited in a dark hallway next to the bathrooms. Really?
Or how about this installation by Gabriel Orozco of junk (artifacts) that he collected along a certain part of the beach on the Baja Peninsula in Mexico. (Exhibited at the Guggenheim Museum in 2012-2013.) I like the way he’s laid this out. I like the fact that he took photos of EVERY piece and made photo montages of them. It certainly makes me think. But is it art? Who says?
On the other hand, there are the wonderful and amazing drawings of Cesar Santos. Just watch the video of him completing this awesome pencil sketch of an old man. I’m overwhelmed with appreciation for his talent AND skill.
Or there’s Juliette Aristides and her wonderful atelier for training artists in classical drawing and painting. Boy, do we need that! No, she isn’t exactly trying to do “pretty” but her work is pretty amazing. I’m so glad to see someone still promoting classical training in the arts. Not just hype.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that realistic art is more popular than abstract art or assemblages. People can relate to it. No, I do not think that realism is better than abstract or installations. But I certainly do not have patience for anyone who believes that obscure art or that which needs an explanation is better than realism. To each his own, I guess. There is no room for art snobs.
And this is my humble opinion. Go check out your local gallery or museum to see for yourself. What do you think?