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.

 

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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. 

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”