What Is Art?

What is Art?
What is an Artist?
I had been reading interviews with some of the most famous artists in the world. They were cogent and verbose on subjects like the difference between insider art and outsider art. But when asked “What is an artist” surprisingly not so. Saying an artist is anyone who makes art isn’t saying anything.
The question isn’t really about anyone who makes art. A seven-year-old with a crayon is an artist in that light. But what is an Artist with a capital “A.” What is capital “A” Art?

I finally came to think that a capital “A” Artist is anyone with an original thought and enough creativity to figure out how to use whatever talent he or she might have to express it.

Acrylic on Masonite¬†35″ (1 m) x 24″
I drew pencil lines to cut on to make it smaller for storing, but my brother persuaded me not to. Too bad about the pencil lines.
What follows are two examples that might make clear what I am thinking.

The first is a woman who is the most naturally talented artist I ever have known. It doesn’t matter if you put an eraser or a chisel in her hand. What she can do in the next three minutes is so intimidating that it makes you wonder why you ever thought you could do anything in that field.

But after decades working full time as an artist, she has yet to produce anything that anyone could look at and recognize as hers. A painting of hers recently sold in a gallery for under a thousand dollars. It was sheep in a meadow. It will look good over someone’s couch.

The second: Contrast that with an artist I read about years ago. He had been a respected artist with a lucrative career in New York for several decades. A long time after that was over a journalist looked him up to ask how he did it. The artist said that he never had been to art school and didn’t have any of the talent or skills of his contemporaries. He couldn’t draw or paint or sculpt, so what he did was think up things no one ever had thought to do before in art and put them in galleries. People came to see the new ideas.

The first of these two examples is talent with no original thinking. The second is original thinking with no talent. 

Experimenting with GIF Images
We know who created the first piece of artwork still in existence that uses the concept of perspective. We don’t necessarily know who first thought it up. It could have been someone who sketched only with the burnt ends of sticks to amuse children. Such artwork would be unlikely to survive no matter how brilliant it was, but the idea did: perspective. It is ideas that survive. It is ideas that raise the level of what everyone thinks and does.¬†

Discussions about Significant Form or Magnitudes of Aesthetic Experience and such like can be about art with a lower case “a” if there is nothing original in them. If there is something original, the composition can be random, can be aesthetically neutral, can contain no symbols and tell us nothing about the real world. If it contains an original thought, no matter what the thought is about, it has raised the level of thought in general. That is what survives and changes the world. Even when the originator of the thought had to have someone else fabricate it, something that many people don’t understand about modern art.

Experimenting with Selfies
with the light in just the right place and sucking it in just right
Explains Damien Hirst and Jeff Koons, doesn’t it?