We are still talking to each other!  The conversation continues

We are still talking to each other! The conversation continues

It might stop and stutter, but it hasn’t stopped … too much to talk about. In our last conversation we were talking about Honesty in Art, and you discussed this from the perspective of a viewer as well as someone who makes art. (Click here to see our last conversation.)Your ideas got me thinking about comparisons between writing and visual art, as well as the role of the audience.

Art revealing the artist?

I want to disagree with your statement that art needs to reveal the artist to be successful. I don’t necessarily need to discover anything about the artist in a work in order to appreciate it. I believe I mentioned previously that I am definitely one who reads artist statements, press materials, and biographical details when they are available. Learning about the artist adds to my impression of the work, but I don’t fault art if it does not reveal the artist. I would make the distinction instead that what I want from the art is to see that the artist has given something of herself to the work.

For instance, Damien Hirst’s ubiquitous Spot Paintings. Throughout coverage of his worldwide exhibitions, critics decry the creation of most of these artworks by Hirst’s assistants. Designing a painting and actually painting one seem to me as different as writing a book and having an idea for one. If I do visit one of the NYC locations of this exhibition, I don’t anticipate feeling a sense of either Hirst or another painter among the spots. It seems to me that the choices inherent in the generation of such an expansive body of work reveal more about Hirst than any individual painting.

Where Does the Audience Fit Into the Process?

You described art that is designed to engage the basic emotional responses of a viewer as inauthentic (your description of Thomas Kincade’s work as engineered marketing). So I think what you’re saying is that a successful artwork will balance the interests of artist and audience–will express a level of authentic self-expression and fulfill an implied obligation to place itself within art history while inviting conversation among viewers.

And you described the way that you approach this: “…the artist has a concept and then uses certain elements to explore that concept, and –importantly–the artist leaves some of the process open to allow the audience to participate.”

I don’t entirely disagree, but you seem to be saying that leaving something open to the audience is a conscious decision, such as your example of Stéphanie Nava’s work. It’s interesting to me that for (some) visual artists this is a deliberate choice.

I usually write about personal experiences, and it is considering the audience that tends to get me stuck in quicksand. The openness is better left to the unconscious part of the process. The more completely I leave the audience behind on my way to pursue what something meant only to me, the more likely I am to stumble upon a tunnel that leads right back into the conversation you mentioned. I don’t really understand it, but that’s the mystery and magic of creativity, for me.

Speaking of conversation, you have a show coming up next month where artists and writers will be exploring some of the topics that we’ve also been discussing here. What’s the show about, what questions are you exploring with it? –Robin Grearson