The definition of art is a somewhat amorphous thing. Recently I chided someone for identifying “art” with whatever will challenge me, make me feel uncomfortable, touch me, transform me. I suggested that some things will have these qualities and yet will decidedly not be art. Driving in rush hour, doing taxes, taking a standardized test, getting a root canal — all are challenging. I guarantee the root canal will make you uncomfortable. Perhaps a dentist will argue that root canals are art. But, for goodness sake, let’s let the dentist make the argument. Artists don’t have to do it for them.
What is art? In the era when drawing doesn’t count, art has morphed into namelessness. Everyone is an artist now. Art is whatever you want it to be. And still life beckons.
Let me suggest that art’s definition be reserved for the hard stuff. Let an old master’s skill be an ingredient. Better that we be striving toward it than grinning and slapping our own backs in self-congratulation.
Life still beckons. I say art is a mystery, and I will pursue it. Better to ever pursue and never reach than to cheapen the journey with goo-gaws and touristy nick-nacks. Can I persuade you to share in the longing?
Okay, I don’t usually rant. But the ubiquitously recited litany that art will challenge me, make me feel uncomfortable, touch me, transform me — it’s so “me, me,me”! When did we lose our bearings? When did we leave nature aside? When did we lose our capacity to see inside the veil?
I copied Ingres (who knew what art is) and left the face blank. I think she makes a nice metaphor for Art. Art is she whose face is hard to see, the mystery that beckons, the life that needs transcription, a line suspended in air, a thought held in a breath, a definition that defies.