On Medium and Reputation

A wonderful friend commented a few posts back that she would like to read my thoughts on how medium affects the perception of art. Well, Taylor, here goes. Thank me later.

My artistic development took place in the ceramics department of my college and birthed a vehement interest in functional art. The initiated among you may recognize this as “not the most classical place in the art world” – indeed, that would be painting.

Painting as an art form is practically never questioned. In fact, when introducing myself as an artist, I’m often immediately asked about my paintings, in spite of the fact that I do not and never have had paintings. But that’s the first stop on the art train, it seems. And if someone calls themselves a painter, unless they’re painting houses with Behr, a vast majority of people would consider them to be an artist without the slightest consideration for what they’re actually producing. Painting as an art form, it seems, is taken for granted, not only in the public eye, but within the art world as well.

Like I’ve mentioned here and elsewhere, I studied as a functional potter. I love functional art and personally place it on a higher pedestal (a ceramic pedestal, of course) than other art forms because of its intimacy. But pottery requires much, much more defense to acquire or maintain its standing in the art world. How many painters can you name? Many, I’m sure. Now, how many potters can you name? Shoji Hamada? Bernard Leach? Mike Jabbur, perchance? For most people I talk to, I might as well be making up names. I suspect there are many reasons for this, such as pottery serving a non-art purpose for such a long time (depending on your opinion of artist agency, I suppose) and general fluctuations in opinions within the art world. There’s not a doubt in my mind, though, that pottery as a whole experiences much more artistic scrutiny. Ceramics – distinct from pottery – is a bit more highly regarded as a “fine art” because of its sculptural applications, but it is still questioned more than, say, marble.

What I’ve discovered is that there is a sort of hierarchy. Whether you think this is justified or not is a topic for debate, I suppose, but to my mind it’s undeniably present. Self-evident, even, such that I’d like to move on to a related topic, though do let me know if you have any interest in me expanding on the effect of medium. I may write a more opinion-focused post on it soon.

This related subject is the significance of the artist’s achievements; art by an established artist is more readily accepted as art. I haven’t spoken to my friends with psychology degrees about it yet, but it wouldn’t surprise me if there were a term for such a thing in other fields. Now, there are some obvious and reasonable explanations for this, such as people with experience being less likely to make bad art, and I don’t entirely begrudge this attitude anyway because established artists are largely the ones with the ability to push boundaries, which is always good. However, art from young or unestablished artists is considered less valuable inherently than that of an established artist and I find it to be a great shame that the perception of an artist’s work would be judged, essentially, by their resume rather than the art itself.

This is a difficult argument to navigate, since it’s easy to confuse for “why can’t everyone be famous?”, but I promise you that’s not what I’m after. I am certain that, when viewing a piece of art, an observer’s opinion is hugely influenced by the achievements of the artist, such that bad art is accepted due to the fame of the artist and good art is dismissed due to their lack of reputation.

 

Advertisements

Art Unmade Does Not An Artist Make

I was an artist in college. I don’t believe I’m an artist at the moment. 

Is being an artist a permanent quality? Or is it more ethereal? Can one be an artist temporarily, perhaps abandon it entirely only to regain the title later?

Being an artist isn’t really a job description (unless you’re one of the lucky ones). At any rate, no artist I’ve ever known is only one from 9-5, Monday through Friday. But it’s also not simply an attitude. 

I haven’t made any art in quite a while – longer than I’d like and much longer than I care to admit. How, then, can I be an artist? My conclusion is that I’m not. And I don’t like that. 

I can’t make art the way I’m used to right now. I can’t do ceramics because I lack the space, as well as the means to rent space. I never thought much of my 2D art ability, and the leatherworking I’ve been doing doesn’t feel like art. So apparently I’ve given up. 

But, believe it or not, I set out to write this post with an inspirational message in mind rather than a depressive one. And the message is: MAKE ART. Stop worrying about it, because if you cease to make art, you cease to be an artist. If you’re like me and want to maintain your artistry, just make things. Don’t expect perfect things. Don’t insist they come about in exactly the way you expect. Focus on the making, and whatever drove you to see yourself as an artist in the first place. Holding onto that is the most important, and while I seem to have lost track of things I like to think I’ve found a foothold in it now. 

On a different note, my bi-weekly posts seem to have gotten off kilter sometime between June and now. It’s a mystery. But one thing I expect will help keep me planted in the art world, or that least the art world mindset, is more blog posts about my artistic thoughts – and I need to stay planted there. So I hope the word “artist” hasn’t gone and done that thing where it doesn’t seem like a word anymore. More to come. 

An Unfortunate Rant

In which ideas and fears are bared with regret

Alright, look, I’m not a political expert, nor am I terribly invested in not insulting people, so if you’re commonly triggered by people’s political opinions, then run. Run while you can.

I’m scared, folks. And I’m not just scared of the possibility, however vague, of President Trump. I’m also scared of President Clinton Mk. II. I’m scared of people voting out of fear, ironically. I’m scared of the clusterfuck of a “democratic process” that we’ve seen this year becoming the norm if people are persuaded to look the other way. I’m scared of what the future of American politics will bring if we fail to make the one correct decision.

Nobody in their right mind should vote for Trump unless they’re a rich, racist old white man. And that person is still a dick. I don’t think an argument against Trump requires much more elaboration – his insanity is pretty self-evident.

I do not want Hillary Clinton to be the President of the United States. I do not think she is qualified for the position nor can I count on her to behave in the people’s best interests. Normally when I say something like this, people automatically assume I’m strapping on my swastika armband and declaring my allegiance to Dictator Trump. This is not the case. At the very least, I find armbands uncomfortable. But Clinton has historically low trustworthiness ratings, her campaign committee is shady as hell, she’s slathered in scandals and shadowy, terrifying rumors in equal measure, and for some reason people still want to support her. At the moment she’s been hailed for weeks as the Democratic nominee amidst allegations of voter fraud, for which so much evidence exists, I don’t know how anyone could be okay with allowing proceedings to continue as usual. An enormous amount of people, myself included, even believe she should have been indicted for a failure to uphold her responsibilities as Secretary of State, which would unequivocally preclude anyone else from holding public office, much less POTUS.

Now, if you want more reasons Hillary is unfit for office, I’m not the definitive source. I’m sure you could find everything your little heart desires on Facebook or Reddit or wherever. My next fear is something more insidious and abstract.

I mentioned earlier that whenever I have the audacity to criticize Hillary, people automatically assumed I’ll be voting for Trump. This, in the minds of mainstream media writers and your Facebook friends, is the de facto conclusion for voting outside of the established two-party system. Because tradition is the best reason to do things – just ask women and black people and LGBTetc folks and, again, basically anyone other than white men. For fuck’s sake, if you never learn anything ever again, learn that voting for your chosen candidate is voting for your candidate and absolutely no one else. We do not vote by marking who we don’t want. Your prerogative is to vote for the candidate you believe is best for the job, not, as media and tradition would have you believe, to cast your vote as part of some larger strategy like a goddamn military commander. If everyone finally believed this and acted on it, we could easily elect a third party candidate with the clowns populating our major parties this year. But people won’t. Out of fear.

And that scares me.

At the moment, Bernie is still very much in the race, and therein lies my last little kernel of hope. Any argument for Hillary as an ostensible uniter of the party is unfounded, seeing as Bernie still retains the support of a vast majority of Independents and a huge portion of Democrats, and outperforms Hillary in polls against Trump by an almost comically large margin. We’ve had the chance to elect a politician unsullied by scandals, funded by individuals, who believes in representing the people. And the opportunity is almost gone – if it’s squandered, I have no idea what to do.

And that scares me more than anything else.

I won’t be citing sources here, much to the chagrin of my college professors, because the sources are already all over the place and no one reads this goofy little opinion blog anyway. And I must say, as much as it pains me, I don’t want to debate this. We’re all scared whether we admit it or not and that is not conducive to constructive discussions, in spite of my belief that people should be able to discuss anything peacefully. I can talk through dissenting opinions in art, music, money, people, or what have you without issue, but there’s something different about politics. It warrants some more thought on my part.

But rest assured, I’ll have some posts on art, music, money, people, or what have you very soon. It’s a shame to have come off my blog hiatus with this sort of post.

Passionate About Too Many Things

Being an adult sucks. Where’s the paperwork for opting out?

There’s a lot of stuff I love. I love playing music, talking about music, making pottery, writing, leatherworking, woodworking, luthiery, talking about arts and artists, baking bread, and many other things that you may recognize as not being a combination of things you’ll find in one job. Continue reading “Passionate About Too Many Things”

Art vs. Craft, and Artist’s Statements

It can be hard to think of things to blog about as someone new to the game who wants to post regularly. Or semi-regularly. We’ll see. Point being, I’ve decided today to start in on a subject I care a lot about: art. Specifically, the difference between art and craft. Continue reading “Art vs. Craft, and Artist’s Statements”

No Mistakes In Jazz

No Mistakes In Jazz was the title of my college capstone exhibition of functional ceramics. It referred to a quote that I’ve seen attributed to several different people, but which at any rate comes from – shockingly – the world of jazz. I’ve understood it to mean that mistakes cannot arise from an artist who is genuine and present. This body of work was an effort to put that idea into practice. Continue reading “No Mistakes In Jazz”