What is art? If you are a college student, you have heard this question. It could have been in philosophy class, which is much like Nascar but without a winner after all the driving in circles.
Perhaps you heard it at a party, if you were one of those people still awake in the kitchen after all the alcohol is gone and you try to talk about intellectual things to forget that you are sobering up. Well, maybe there's some Pabst left, but you're not that drunk anymore.
Maybe you had a studio class, and during breaks, the smokers in the class would walk outside in sub-zero temperatures and ask this question to feel smart about giving themselves cancer, pretending that a flipped collar and an American Spirit cigarette is all they need to stay warm on Planet Hoth.
If you were at art school, you heard this question at all these places. And everywhere in between. It was a question that defined your existence at art school. The question, mind you. Not the answer. Because the answer is a unicorn. The answer is the pot of gold in each rainbow. The answer doesn't exist.
Why not? Well let us try to define it, shall we? Art is an image.
Wrong, what about performance art? Art is an experience.
OK, is Transformer's 2 art? It is certainly an experience. Throwing up is an experience too. But neither of them is art.
We could go on like this all day. I will share with you a talk I had with my Critical Analysis of Art and Literature teacher:
It began as a field trip. We all went to the auditorium to hear a presentation by the art director for CCAD's galleries.
Among many post-modern offerings, there was one artist in particular who had done a number of works in other countries. One of this artist's pieces was a large concrete square built in the center of a town.
This marvelous sculpture inspired musical artists to perform on it and speeches to be held on it. Rallies would gather around his artwork, and it became a focal point for performance centered art. Wow, right?
Let us review. It's big, made out of concrete, in the shape of a square, and has people perform on it. That sounds a lot like a stage. I'm sorry, what I meant to type is: he built a stage.
For the artist's next piece, he was planning on coming to Columbus, OH to paint bike lanes. Not, like, colors in all flavors of the rainbow lanes. Just bike lanes. The kind that they pay construction workers to make. Usually that is called a public service. But no, this was art.
When we got back to class, we asked the question: What is art? If the bike lanes and the concrete stage are both considered art, then what else falls into this category? Is a playground art? No, says the teacher, goateed and bespectacled as he was.
Is the Ohio Theatre building art? No, again, comes the reply from the man sipping a tall mocha-chino-latte-salted-hopscotch-foursquare at the front of the classroom. What, then, classifies these projects as art?
"That an artist does them." The words ease out like cigarette smoke and fade into the silence. So if I, an artist by my own definition, dug a hole in the ground, would it be art? No. This time the answer is hesitant. His glasses fog with the effort of his thoughts.
What, then, makes something art? I ask, the whole class asking the same question (except for the kid in a torn jean jacket and floppy Chucks who almost certainly spends his days thinking thoughts so deep he craps ideas). The lips purse. The silver mustache bristles. "A signature from an artist."
So if I bought a hamburger bun at Kroger, I was an artist, and I signed it, it would be art. "Yes." If I scribbled on a napkin and signed it, it would be art (oops, Picasso did this). If I, as mayor, ordered that an on-ramp be made, and I called myself an artist, and I signed that on-ramp, would it be art? Stunningly, the reply was yes.
I think you all know which side of the bike lane I'm on. I've never been quiet about my disdain for the post-modern movement, and I did not and do not agree with the definition of artwork given to me by my teacher. Much of this probably comes from my illustration roots. But the fact (my opinion) remains, the definition of 'art,' especially 'fine art,' has been diluted beyond significance.
I want to hear the words 'fine art' and see the work of masters in their craft. Someone who has something to say and the skills to say it with. That isn't to say that post-modern artists don't have anything to say, or that they are bad at what they really do. If I walk into an art gallery full of holes in the walls and the message is in the hundreds of pages making that artist's thesis, he is a writer. Probably a good one. But he is bad at art.
I've heard it time and again, 'my gallery was meant to inspire conversation,' or 'the empty canvas is filled with the thoughts of the viewer.' Let me put this in capitals to be clear: YOU ARE THE ARTIST, YOU ARE THE ONE WHO SUPPOSEDLY HAS THE AWESOME INSPIRING IMAGES/PERFORMANCES. COMPANIES MAKE BLANK CANVASES EVERY DAY AND THEY ARE WRAPPED IN PLASTIC AND HAVE A STICKER THAT SAYS 14.95, NOT 14,950. THE IDEA THAT YOU ARE UNEDUCATED IF YOU DON'T UNDERSTAND ARTWORK IS ELITIST AND LAZY. GET OVER YOURSELF, WRITE A BOOK, AND STOP PEDDLING YOUR ARTIST'S BLUFF. Breath now, relax.
I know, I used the dreaded word: craft. No other profession has been so successfully lampooned by over-educated egomaniac fart-sniffing paintbrush-diddlers as the art world. A plumber can fix my plumbing (as they are wont to do), and he can do this with varying degrees of craftsmanship. Of the best plumber in the world, it could be said that he is an artist in his field. But if plumbing were defined in the same, nebulous manner fine art is, he could have walked into my home, hammered nails into the pipes, told me that my face was a vagina and signed the front door.
Disclaimer: For anyone who might be outraged by my post, or even want to argue about it, it is meant to entertain and be humorous. Also, I am right on all points. Ever.