Awhile ago, a friend of mine posted a question on her blog, "What is Art Anyhow?" To which I responded without thinking much... just what I felt at the time. This is what I said~
"Hi melanie. well, that's a tough question. I feel sometimes, in school, Art is what your instructors say is Art. Back in the days (according to art history) Art was really what the Academy said was Art. To me, it is different. Art is something that we create because we are drawn to create it. I don't feel that Art is only Art when it is validated by others... yet in academia, that appears to be exactly what it is. To me, Art is having the freedom to create, stemming from a desire to bring forth what is inside. Sure it is great if others like it, or if you could make a living from doing it, but I don't feel that's the point."
My opinion hasn't change much, and I have done much more thinking about that question. Yes, I would love to make a living from being creative... but I create, because I enjoy the process of creating. I've always been drawn to photography, ever since I was a child & I received my first little kodak 110 camera when I was about 10. My camera has been a constant companion ever since. A few years ago, I decided I wanted to start playing with clay. I found a couple of ceramics studios, and took a few entry level classes... and fell in love with clay. Somewhere along the road, I decided that once I payed off my first set of student loans, I'd return to school to study art.
That was a year ago, and since then I've taken entry level classes in Drawing, Sculpture, Ceramics, Digital Media, Art History & Printmaking. I have really enjoyed my classes, but I have to say, the push toward Fine Art really bothers me sometimes. It is not my dream or desire to be a Fine Artist. This is not to dishonor those who are... if that's your dream... that is great! If I ever did become a Fine Artist, it would be more a fluke... or just from my continued desire to create that that would ever happen. This, (and the enormous financial output) is where I have difficulty with "formal art" education. The push, by & large, is to create Fine Artists. I understand that there is a Bachelor's in Fine Art Curriculum at the school I am attending, but there is also simply a Bachelor's Degree in Studio Art... and it would be nice if art for arts sake was talked about, rather than Fine Art, Fine Art, Fine Art.
I love making cards from my photographs, bookmarks from scrap printmaking supplies, and so forth. I use the widely outdated method of snail mail, and send them to friends & family that love to receive something hand made & thoughtful. A discussion ensued during a Printmaking Critique yesterday on how doing such things (making cards, bookmarks, t- shirts...) "devalues the art." I listened to other peoples opinions, and chimed in with my own. After the discussion was over, I felt very emotional (not unusual for me... although in general, I try to keep tears from streaming down my face in public... and no, dammit, I'm not always successful.) I think the reason I got so emotional, is that I really love creating, for the sake of creating... and to say that what I enjoy doing (and for that matter what all the people who sell their work at arts & crafts fairs enjoy doing) "devalues art" really devalues my ideas, thoughts & work as a fledgling artist. It also made me really question whether or not this is where I belong.
Here's my opinion. When something becomes "Fine Art," and it is hung on a Gallery Wall~ in the opinion of most artists... it is then "Valuable." In the course of becoming valuable, it becomes unattainable for the average person to purchase. Therefore, a person who is economically challenged (poor or middle class) would never have access to such art. It seems to me then, to create a division in socioeconomic class. If you have money, then maybe you are deserving of such art. Do you see what I'm getting at? There seems to me to be a certain snobbery involved. In even the most basic of Art History classes, it can be found that there were many artists that defied such snobbery, but they were often labeled as outcasts... but the fact of the matter is that some of them wanted to create for the sake of creating & challenged the rules of the Fine Art community. While I can walk through a gallery & appreciate Fine Art, and the devotion of time & labor & skill involved... I could never imagine walking out with such a piece... because I could never afford it.
There are so many lovely, talented brilliant Artists that function at a Community level. They sell their art at craft shows, art booths, even on Etsy. They put effort, skill & heart into their work. Yes, maybe they are wishing they could make a bit more money for their efforts. I have made & sold my photo cards for a while, and if you break it down... the money per hour is quite small! But I'll tell you what, the feeling of knowing that someone liked something I did enough to purchase it at all really made me feel good. And when I've spoken to the local artisans selling at these craft fairs, by and large I find it is a labor of love.
And that is what art is to me. A labor of love. And in my humble opinion, it should be fun!!! It shouldn't be riddled with the stress of trying to fit in, or trying to achieve a certain status. For me, it is an exploration... playing with ideas & shapes & forms & different mediums... trying to get out what is inside, or trying to capture beauty that I see in the world... enjoying the process along the way. I feel the push for Fine Art can have the potential to take us away from the very reasons we began to create in the first place. Again, all the humble opinion of a fledgling artist.
As if I haven't said enough (yes, this is my longest post ever... I guess I just had to get it out)... I'll leave you with this simple quote, by an artist you may have heard of.
"Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up." ~Pablo Picasso