When I made The Last Halloween the plan had been one film and done. I would have scratched that particular itch and would feel good about it.
One and done.
When I made The Last Halloween the plan had been one film and done. I would have scratched that particular itch and would feel good about it.
One and done.
The Art of Art
In the rush to embrace the next trend, crown the next genius, and jump on the next bandwagon I think we forget that art is about you.
Or rather You.
Art is a lot of things, so many things that people get years of schooling just to tell others what is ‘good’ art and what is ‘bad’ art but in the end we forget that art is a totally subjective thing and it’s really about you/me/us. Art is powerful when it touches something in us, rouses something in us, makes us think or feel something more than we did before we encountered it. The art that moves us is our business and ours alone when rubber hits road. Sure, we need scholars and critics to let us know things about art we didn’t get on our initial encounter – relevance, meaning, technique, pedigree, importance to a time or movement, etc. – but it’s up to us to decide whether the art means something or not to us. The best thing getting a new opinion on a piece of art – painting, poem, piece of music, story, drawing, or whatever – is that it lets us see the work through new eyes and see if we perhaps missed something that will make the piece more meaningful to us. That’s pretty powerful to be able to do that and again, the real thing to credit is the art itself for having more to reveal.
Now there is certainly ‘high’ art and ‘low’ art because there is a difference between a painting someone took years to conceive and paint and a poem someone wrote on a napkin while at lunch BUT, ahem, BUT that doesn’t mean that those to pieces are not equally powerful, just that how they were created and what went into them was different. What matters in the end is that the work was made with passion and the rest is up to the person that comes into contact with it. I am the most amateur of painters, am self-taught, and I paint what I want to paint and what amuses me. I scoff at the notion of my paintings being ‘art’ but they are, and they are fine AS they are. They are not art meant for the masses, meant to teach, to expand, to tell a story and hang in hallowed halls. No, my paintings are meant for people that appreciate the weird and the silly, the strange and the odd. People that can appreciate that my passion is greater than my skill. And most certainly one of my silly paintings could conceivably touch someone more deeply than a Renoir well, I mean it’s CONCEIVABLE certainly, but let’s not get ridiculous.
Art has a bad tendency to become parody, imitation, and of late cash-cow. Too many times we are seeing stories of people co-opting the art or visions of others only to profit then fall on the old standard that they are just being persecuted for re-purposing art, or for being a maverick, or some other nonsense people make up. The passion that used to fill art, that used to inform and infect and invite seems contrived so many times. Sure, there is ‘commercial’ art, art made for the purpose of drawing in a sale of some sort, and that’s fine, fine because it can still be made passionately, but we’re seeing too much art become commoditized and too many looking to become the next sensation. Without that passion though art loses its power and connection. Art, all art, has value, even if it is simply to the person creating it. Not everyone will connect with everything, that’s the nature of art but who are we to dismiss and denigrate people for not creating art we connect with? There are plenty of things I don’t like but who am I to tell someone they are wrong for liking it? That’s nonsense. Yet…we do that all the time.
Maybe we all need to remember the street level artists of the world who are doing art because they have no choice. Who celebrate every small sale or notice. Maybe we need to remember when we were kids and we sang because we felt the music, wrote stories because the words spoke to us, and we drew because we wanted to put the worlds in our head into reality. Maybe we need to remember what it was like when we listened to ourselves to know what we liked. Maybe we need to remember what it was like to feel the passion first and the rest followed that drive.
Maybe we need to remind ourselves what art means.
Maybe we need to trust what we like and screw everyone else.
Maybe we need to let people do what they love and stop telling them they are awful at it.
Maybe we should be open to talking about what we love, why we love those things, and not feel the need to tell people they are wrong for loving what they do.
Love what you love and that’s all that matters.
The hope is that all our tastes will broaden, will be honed, and will pick up new flavors and interests over time but art is about what we feel and we really need to stop letting other people tell us what we feel. If people want to argue over artistic merit, value, importance, and meaning then let them. That stuff can be fun to get into from time to time. But when we de-value art and the passion of the artist and the appreciator well, then we forgot what art was all about to begin with, didn’t we.
Despite what bloggers may think blogs change very little. At best they make you think, or make you laugh, or show you something you didn’t know was out there. But it’s in those moments that the spark of an inferno lays.
Flint is a city notorious for its issues and it gets frustrating to see people focus on them and not the world being done by the people here to better the city. For someone like me, that lives here and has lived here for some time it gets upsetting to see that the work people do and want to do gets pushed aside by some glory hounds and wanna-bes that have the connections and gloss to get the press, the funding, and the attention that these others don’t. I am tired of seeing people granted money to do art shows for people who are not held out of traditional art shows and events. I am tired of seeing money funneled into groups that want to bring in and compensate outside artists before and above the local arts community we have here. I am tired of the same people doing the same shows over and over and over. For too long the arts establishment has stayed safe and not fostered the arts scene as they should and then you hear people decry the ‘brain drain’ when all of our young people leave the area. With little work being done to create jobs in the area and less being done to support the young and struggling artists it’s no wonder these people feel the need to leave.
I do art from time to time but I am no artist. I don’t focus on it enough and am terribly sketchy in my talent but that I was invited to do shows out of the city and was able to show my work in Detroit to any degree meant the world to me. Heck, selling art to strangers was amazing for my confidence and is the sort of reinforcement artists need. They don’t need people criticizing them for their style and for their lack of experience they need support and opportunity. It says something that there is a grant funded super arts group that focuses on press friendly art shows that tackle such great issues as POVERTY, HUNGER, um…STUFF with an emphasis on out of town artists when so many locals have felt the need to create their own collectives to encourage, support, and create together. My first foray into Flint’s arts scene was in such a group and that group has definitely influenced the arts in the city but they never were able to make real in-roads to changing the culture.
And the arts culture in Flint HAS to change.
Flint is a city struggling for a new identity and we have the things to create one – multiple colleges, lots of college students, a brilliantly conceived cultural center, a successful monthly Art Walk and young and established artists that are desperate to show their work. This is your identity. This is your key to retain young people and draw older folks into town for shows, for the city to capitalize on the assets that are here. There is a criminally under utilized waterfront performance space. There is an openness in the local businesses to work with artists. And by building off of the Art Walk there is an established and regular event that can used as a base to draw more people here for arts events. But there needs to be a change.
There needs to be more support for the smaller art shows, for the more unique events, and more work needs to be done to spread the funding around. Let organizations that have established themselves stand on their own and find their own funds and stop granting them the same money over and over because it’s safe and looks good. Stop rewarding mediocrity and hold grantees responsible for the money they take as well as the trust they lean so heavily on.
There is a divide in Flint that is growing by the day. A divide that is more than just money – though that is clearly a mammoth in the room – and it is between the people on the inside and those on the outside. Those on the inside keep getting the funding, the press, and the lights and those struggling to just survive and find their voices must beg, borrow, and all but steal show space and then have to decide if it’s worth remaining here if they have to fight so hard just to keep doing something that for them feels like the most natural thing in the world.
The arts cannot save a city but it can revitalize, reinvigorate, and renew a city’s people and can serve as part of a foundation that a future can be built upon. Look to Grand Rapids, Michigan if you doubt me. Art will not save Flint but it can give the city an opportunity to retain the very young people that it will rely on to repair the damage that has been done to the city over the past decades.
There is particular sort of hubris that comes from anyone bold enough to decide they are qualified to tell people the difference between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ but it grows ever more vast when it becomes more than just a sort of sign-post opinion and is presented as a firm entitlement to tell people their tastes are lacking.
As someone who has reviewed movie for ages I have walked the line for a long time when it came to telling people about the movies I was watching. I have always tried to make it know that the movies I am reviewing are playing to my tastes and that I am reviewing it from that standpoint. I mean, people like different things and for different reasons and that’s what makes us all interesting. Even horror nerds can never agree on what it is we all like, but, again, those differences build the bedrock for what molds interesting discussions and impassioned arguments.
Everything has validity.
It’s not fair to look at the work of one person or a hundred and to dismiss it out of hand, even if the work is clearly awful. As a reviewer you just see some things that blow your mind that they were made. For me, it’s the level of passion that salvages a work though. Some things are not good, are bad, but at least they were made with passion but then there are things that are made to cash in on a trend and that just drives you crazy. But just because I think that the work is silly and derivative doesn’t mean everyone will. There is a customer, a consumer, an appreciator of everything.
But what is there a ‘bad’?
There is a bad but bad is subjective. As is good. The same person that loves Mozart may hate Whistler. The person that loves GWAR may love ballet. And at the core of things, at the center, who the heck said that anything is inherently ‘good’? There is a classism and snobbishness to the idea of dubbing things good and bad with the notion that things that were enjoyed initially by the wealthy are inherently good. The love of classical music does not make one any more cultured than a love of gangster rap makes one a deviant. The idea that there is a base of goodness from which to draw from, to use as the measuring sick is a farce and people need to understand that.
Because…there’s nothing, nothing that is by its nature universally good. Nor universally bad.
I get very frustrated when people have the gall to go on a crusade to save others from ‘bad art’, as if a degree in art history and an appreciation of obscure artists makes one cultured and enlightened. Any time someone wants to tell me what is ‘bad’ and what is ‘good’ I immediately smell pretension and self service and want to get far far away because there’s always a pitch and the pitch is always their opinion on what is ‘good’.
The wrongheadedness of such enlightenment is mind numbing. It’s like calling someone fat and telling them to put down the pie instead of helping them see how delicious the food that is better for them is. At its base, any time you tell someone what their opinion should be is presumptuous. If someone chooses to like this or that or whatever it’s their choice to make and it isn’t really our business to tell them otherwise.
There is always wiggle room.
I think what bothers me more than anything about the idea of ‘bad’ art is that people are taking a chance to truly enlighten and are using as a way to grandstand. You go in to broaden your horizon and get a lecture on art styles that do little to piqué your interest. Art is such a subjective thing that it’s a little silly to think there’s a one size fits all sort of taste meter.
So where do we start?
Why don’t we go about things with a new focus with less shaming on someone’s taste and more horizon growing of that taste. Not because what we like is better but because what we like is different and may be something THEY also like. I look at it this way – there are a lot of people who love the artwork of Thomas Kincaid. Mr. Kincaid’s work reached a level of pop fame and crossover appeal that made the general public fall in love and the art major cringe. So here’s the thing, instead of shaming someone for liking his art and mass-marketed art why not show how that art is similar to another artist, or other artists, and help to expand that person’s artistic palate. THAT needs to be the thrust of this conversation, not to shame or to speak ill of ANY sort of art. The hope of anyone that is well versed in something should be to help teach people some of the things they have learned. Education baby, not degree flaunting.
I think people forget that as a nation, as a people we are not the most educated in the arts. People would rather spend money too see a movie more than they to read a book. They’d rather buy a poster of a celebrity than they would a print of classic art. We need to not shame people for their tastes and their interests and work to help broaden those tastes. There’s room for the profane and the divine. There is room to like modern pop music and to love roots music. People don’t need to be shamed, to be lectured to about how bad what they like, or what they love is. Instead we should see if there’s room to teach them about what we love to see if they’ll love it also. We need to treat one another more like friends because a friend influences without judging, inspires without forcing, and accepts that sometimes our tastes are not always going to be compatible.
I suppose but that’s a little subjective, isn’t it, despite what degree gives you the self determination that your understanding and grasp of art is so rounded as to tell people their own appreciation is lacking. Perhaps we should focus less on how ‘bad’ things are and instead focus on how inspiring art in general is because every art, every artist goes through phases, and grows in skill, talent, and vision and to dismiss art, and its artists out of hand is unfair to the artist and those that may hold their art dear.
Hey, what do I know, I’m just someone who makes art. I sure as hell ain’t no artist.