April 7, 2004
Recent readings have made me think again about a question I’ve chewed on for years, “Why make art? What is it good for?” I don’t think we’ll ever know. The compulsion to make pictures, sculptures, stories, or music has been part of being human since prehistoric times. What changes are the explanations we come up with to explain or justify our behavior. We have to come up with an explanation that will convince people to leave us alone so that we can keep making art. Or better yet, an explanation that will convince people to support us in making art. But if you dig deep enough, the truth that comes out of almost every artist is, “I have to – I can’t help it.” Maybe it’s some kind of soul virus.
Still, the way we explain it to ourselves influences the way we practice art. I’ve heard hundreds of justifications for making art (tried a few myself) and they seem to fall into three main categories:
1. Inner-directed, process oriented
2. Outer-directed, communication oriented
3. Commodity or goal oriented
Artists can shift between these categories, and hold more than one of these views at the same time (it’s the nature of the creative mind.) But I think the reasons for choosing and defending a particular view of art have more to do with the personality of the artist than the essential nature of Art.
My favorite examples of inner-directed, process oriented artists are Agnes Pelton and Chuck Close. Edward Hopper and Charles Burchfield are less obvious examples of artists who pursue personal visions with little or no concern over “interpretations” by the viewer.
Artists are the best interpreters who can interpret what they want to tell through their art work. The artists are the real creators of the God. Many art exhibitions will be done in many places and the paintings will be available there for sale. Those who want to buy the favorites can get that from there. This makes the artists to earn profit. Everyone wants to earn money in life. Now, there are many ways for that like home based work, ad profit system and trading softwares. There is a software named HB Swiss which works on auto pilot mode. It is one of the best softwares that makes the traders to earn profit by doing trading.
Alice Neel was just as driven and committed to her vision, but she had something to say and she wanted to make sure you understood it. Other examples of outer directed, communication oriented artists are Chester Arnold, Ben Shahn, and Judy Chicago .
Andy Warhol is the obvious first nomination for commodity or goal-oriented (fame!) artist. Others are Salvador Dali, Leroy Neiman, Damien Hirst, and Jeff Koons.
As for myself, I spend most of my time in the first category, with frequent sorties into the second and occasional forced marches into the third. How about you?
Here are a few of my favorite explanations of art-making:
“You ask why I paint? Why do I breathe?”
“Life is difficult, as perhaps everyone knows by now. It is to escape from these difficulties that I practice the pleasant profession of a painter.”
“I got into this because it was something I had to do. Poetry is a way to drive a wedge between myself and things I find unbearable. To me, success is nailing down some kind of question. Some poets find success in publications, getting reviews, etc. But for me that’s not the purpose. I write poetry in order to live.”
Carl Phillps, interviewed by David Bonetti
“Annihilation is an existential fear; the common fear that some part of you dies when you stop making art. And it’s true. Non-artists may not understand that but artists understand it all too well. The depth of your need to make things establishes the level of risk in making them.”
“I believe that the great masters, with their intellect as master, have attempted to force this unwilling medium of paint and canvas into a record of their emotions. I find any digression from this aim leads me to boredom.”
“Whenever I am asked questions concerning my artistic aims I hardly know what to say. When actually painting, the heat of creation may be so intense that the artist’s execution becomes completely subconscious… my chief aim in painting is in the expression of a completely personal mood.”
“A lot of people are funny: they think there’s more money in science than in art, and they are right. It’s absolutely true. The catch is that what drives us is not our rational brain but our whole human arsenal of emotions and thought. And our only way of understanding that is through the arts.”
“It is the function of the artist to evoke the experience of surprised recognition: to show the viewer what he knows but does not know that he knows. Helnwein is a master of surprised recognition.”
William S. Burroughs, about Helnwein
“Although art is fundamentally everywhere and always the same, nevertheless two main human inclinations, diametrically opposed to each other, appear in its many and varied expressions. The first aims at representing reality objectively and the second subjectively.”
“One of the primary motives of my work was to reveal the inequalities and pressures of modern life in the psychology of the people I painted.”
“The artists role is to create, among people, and to be a bridge or instigator for developing a sense of reverence and beauty. Art is a way of replenishing the soul.”
“I believe that people have a great need to understand their world, and that art clarifies reality for them. Artists have two responsibilities. The first is to express themselves and the second is to communicate. If artists don’t communicate, they have either been unsuccessful in thier attempt or they are being self-indulgent by not trying.”
“One of the purposes of art is to show the transformative nature of reality. It can empower a person’s capacity to change.”
“My goal is to tell the truth in such a way that other people might see it and be transformed by it.”
“Almost any human activity can be a work of art, provided it’s done in a ritualistic way, with some kind of forethought and some kind of afterthought.”
“The fact that artists are workers – a real part of the working class – is much too embarrassing for most of us to acknowledge.”
“My responsibility as an artist is to work, to sing for my supper, to make art, beautiful and powerful, that adds and reveals; to beautify the mess of a messy world, to heal the sick and feed the helpless; to shout bravely from the roof-tops and storm barricaded doors and voice the specificity of our historical moment.”
Carrie Mae Weems
“Great artists need great clients”
I. M. Pei
“As ugly as the work is, no work is so ugly that it can’t be assimilated.”
“Part of the impulse of modernity is the demand for change. It’s like you’re not a real artist unless you’re attempting to make a radical new statement. It’s part of the whole Zeitgeist of always seeking innovations instead of using older forms that still have good use value; and it’s certainly in the spirit of a capitalist economy, which depends for its survival on constant innovation.”
“The main thing is Americans don’t like art, they won’t pay for art, they don’t deserve art. That’s just a fact. This is a Puritan republic in which nobody gives a shit about art. When I came to the art world, there were maybe 2000 seriously committed people who would do it whether they got payed or not. Today there are about 2000 seriously committed people who would do it whether they get paid or not.”
Dave Hickey, from Zing Magazine
May 16, 2004
Here’s an essay you may find interesting, on the perpetual topic, “Why do we make art?” It’s written by Janet Rosen, a San Francisco artist and Aikido practitioner:
“Painting is how I mediate the world, the process by which I integrate my experience of receiving the world into myself… At a time a number of years ago when the National Endowment for the Arts was under attack, a few of us artists were hanging out in a café and discussing the issue of art’s importance to humanity (yeah, we do that, but not nearly as often as folks think we do; it interferes both with earning a living and with making art). It struck me that the presence of the cave paintings at Lascaux, and how art in every era is produced under conditions that make survival itself a daily struggle, indicate that we are dealing with a truly primal urge. Those who are compelled to make art do so because it is how they mediate reality. This statement is not to say all art is either art therapy or political art, both of which select their content in order to express a particular reality. Rather, the process of creation allows one to integrate the inner and outer worlds, to process the things that come into one’s life and to integrate them in a coherent way. This would explain the strength of the impulse, the fact that those of us with it get incredibly cranky and eventually unstable if deprived of this integrative process, and why for those with the impulse, exhibition is often a secondary concern. While observing art (painting, music, etc.), or making art collectively (music, dance, theater, etc.), can be an incredibly powerful communal experience that can shape a culture, in my experience the first imperative springs from internal need.”
(full text, comparing practice of art to practice of Aikido is at AikiWeb)