ART FOR ONE PERSON

HOW DO WE MEASURE THE VALUE OF ART?

Whether it’s for one person, or millions, your art matters.

I belong to a new guild in Keene, the Creative Professionals Guild of New Hampshire. I’ve never thought of myself as a ‘commercial artist’ and I don’t always enjoy groups. But there was good energy in the group, and it was a chance to meet different people, interesting people. I realized some of my writing gigs fit the bill as a ‘creative professional’. So here I am, getting ready for an upcoming exhibit at a local bakery/coffee shop in town, writing press release, advising people on their artist bios and tag lines. (I have a knack. Who knew?!)

I was talking to one of the group members yesterday. Roma Dee is an amazing young woman. Not only is her photography good–she’s really really skilled at capturing what she calls ’emotional moments’, at weddings and in portraits–she’s also a delightful woman whose gentle leadership skills rallied u to put on our first show. Even-handed, even-tempered, ready to laugh at the drop of a hat, she’s been a joy to work with.

We talked about her business, the nature of marketing to a small, time-sensitive, targeted group of people (brides) and the nature of art. (Bear with me here.)

We all have strong ideas of what art is, and like porn, we think we know it when we see it. Modern art forms, and modern ways of marketing it, make the definition more fluid. Is photography art? If so, is digital photography art? What does ‘art’ mean when ‘anybody can do it’? When the materials are cheap, or easily accessible, or not even ‘desirable.’ (Something polymer artists run into a lot. Face it, I make plastic horses.)

Roma talked about this and her chosen career, and then she said something effin’ brilliant.

She said she loves to do portraits and weddings. Yet these subjects do not lend themselves easily to art shows, and galleries. They are often only meaningful for the people involved, but perhaps not for a ‘general public.’

“But,” she added in the next breath, “It’s art to that one person.”

It’s art, but only for that one person. Or maybe it’s not ‘art’ (for everyone), but it’s definitely art to that one person.

So….is it art, if only one person cares about it?

In my mind….YES!!

In our modern culture, we can look to the past for our definition of ‘art’ and even ‘great art’. There are the works–usually painting, or sculpture. Work like the Mona Lisa. (Not to be too flippant, but most of what we consider ‘real art’ is stuff made by dead European white guys.)

Sometimes it can be work of ‘lesser media’ of great historical and cultural significance–that have endured the test of time. The Bayeux Tapestry. Grecian urns.

Millions know them and love them. Everyone agrees it’s art.

If we look to more recent examples, we look to the measure of fame and money. Picasso. Pollack. Warhol. And even more about fame and money, even less about original work, Richard Prince and Shepard Fairey.

When….did fame and money become the only measures of what is art?

When….did artists have to die before they could achieve fame and respect?

When…did we begin to consider how many other people like what we do, to determine if what we make is ‘real art’?

Roma said she did a portrait of a child, and her mother cried when she saw it. There was something in the moment Roma captured, the emotional content, that moved that one person to tears. (In a good way.)

That….is art.

Yes, there’s good art, and mediocre art. Sometimes even downright appalling art. Sometimes it’s popular, sometimes it’s not.

Yes, we all crave to speak to a larger audience. We all yearn to know our work is wanted, valued, admired. We may wish enough people valued our work enough for us to be able to make a living making it.

Yet sometimes, as Roma remarks, only one person will respond to it.

When we make something that resonates with someone, gets past their ordinary-life-defenses….
When it slips in and breaks their heart wide open…..
When what we create, creates that secondary moment–that awareness of something bigger, something special, something powerful, something meaningful….

Even if only that one person feels it….

That….is our blessing in life. To have that gift, and to be able to use it to make that moment in someone else’s life…..

That, in my art-making, is the one moment I live for.

There is also the moment for little chocolate cupcakes with pink icing, but that’s whole nother story. Come to our reception on April 16 and see what I mean.

TEN MYTHS ABOUT ARTISTS #7: Real Art Doesn’t Match the Sofa

MYTH: Real artists never compromise. They never make art that has to matches a sofa.

REALITY: Just exchange “some” for “real”, and “sometimes” for “never”. Oh, heck, just stop making things black and white, and let some gray area in.

Art has fulfilled powerful roles throughout history. From our human need to know and touch our gods, to our cries for social justice, art has served many purposes. Cathedrals are attempts to do the first, Picasso’s Guernica strove for the second. Conceptual art explores ideas at the expense of materials or process.

So…Art is profound. Art says something. Art is provocative. Art demands reaction, engagement, comment.

But art is also….beautiful. Art is healing. Art is quiet, or simply enjoyable.

And we all know art that’s just weird, dumb or shallow.

Art is all of these things, because beauty really is in the eye of the beholder. One generation’s “good art” is the next generation’s sentimental tripe. And one generation’s “garbage” is another generation’s masterpiece.

“Guernica” is a powerful work of art. But it’s also perfectly acceptable not to want it in our living room. For one thing, it’s huge! (And there’s only one, so only one of us could have it.) (I know we could all have prints of Guernica, and its message is that important to some people. But I like to have real stuff that a real person has made–that’s important to me, too.)

Art in the widest sense can fill the smallest spaces. Not every song is a symphony. Not every dance move is a ballet. Not every scribble is a cave painting. Not every poem is The Iliad.

Art is big enough to find a place in everyone’s life. And the world is big enough for all our art.

It’s okay to paint a lovely landscape to grace someone’s home–even one that goes with the sofa pretty nicely. Although it’s also cool when someone chooses a sofa to go with the painting.

Years ago, a visitor to our home perused our record collection (which tells you how long ago this was) and sniffed, “You can tell a lot about people from their music collection.” To which another visitor replied coolly, “Yeah, you can tell what kind of music they like!” I love that! We don’t all like the same kinds of music. But there are very few people who don’t love music, some kind of music, period.

I started my art path by making tiny fabric dolls and knitted animals. They were sweet and adorable. They were not “powerful” by any means. They had nothing to “say”. Or so I thought. But in them were the the tiny seeds of my desire to make something that made people happy. As my desire to connect in a different way grew, so did my handiwork.

And I’m still not done growing yet.

Make the art that’s in YOU. Don’t worry if if’s not “serious” or “profound”. Try not to compare yourselves to others. It’s hard, we all do it. But don’t stay there.

Don’t be embarrassed that we aren’t a Mozart, or a Picasso. Those incredible folks are art’s aberrations, not the norm. There is plenty of room in the world for the rest of us. There is a need for a well-made pot, a truly comfortable chair, a lovely flower arrangement, a catchy song.

Just make it. Bring it into the world. You and your art may “grow”, or not. It doesn’t matter.

Because the art that is in you, is unique to you. And it yours–all yours–ONLY yours–to give.

What you make, may be just what the world needs, today.