Ok, what is art, exactly? Is someone splattering shit on a canvas art? Is it art if you sneak in and paint a fish on some wall someplace? Is getting up on stage and acting like an idiot while people sip cappuccinos in the audience and smoke cloves art?
What's the point of art? Is it about social commentary? About capturing beauty? About freeing beauty? About having fun maybe? Or making a political statement?
Art's such a nebulous concept and it's one I've wrestled with a lot. For a long while I wanted nothing more than to be an artist. I figured I'd take my paint box and my paints and wander the streets of NY painting whatever caught my eye, living in some shitty rat infested studio with drug addicts and whores because I couldn't afford any better, going without half my meals and wearing worn out threadbare clothes because it was all I had.
Romantic huh? I was looking forward to it at the time.
In college I had a teacher for one of my classes... (I know, shocking, a teacher teaching a class :P ) I forget what the title was, but it was basically an intro to sculpture and 3d art. She was... ew. She believed art was nothing without meaning. Everything had to have a point, a political or social statement, a reason for being. I hated her so much. Everything she did, no matter how obviously stupid or banal or pathetically ugly, had a "meaning" and so it was wonderful, and she would show us slides of the shit she called sculpture and talk about what it meant and how great it was. I fell asleep when she started talking. I didn't mean to, I just did. Not only did I fall asleep during her slide presentations, I also fell asleep during the table discussions and lectures. In this class we had maybe 15 people all seated around a table and sometimes she'd give a lecture or we'd have critiques or whatever. One time I actually fell asleep when I was seated directly across from her - not long ways down the table, either. She could have reached forward and touched me. I think the only consolation was that I wasn't snoring. (I do snore, actually, just not when sitting mostly upright.) This upset her for some reason. I guess when all of your artwork has some contrived and forced meaning and no other reason for existence you get a bit touchy about it. Whatever. So she threatened to fail me. I transferred out of the class. Being a "special" student was nice that way*.
Anyways, the point was, I really hated her for trying to force me into doing "meaningful" "industrial" art. I didn't want to build big 4 foot tall bullshit sculptures. If I had to do 3D work I wanted to be working with clay and carving statues and shit. I was an artist damnit not a social activist. I have no problem with social activism but I felt like I was doing my art for a "higher" cause - I was doing it in the attempt to pull the beautiful from the mundane. I believed (and still do) in finding beautiful things and showing them to people via my artwork. I don't care about anything else. I don't want to have my art be an editorial on the death penalty, I want it to make people stop and take another look around them and realize how much beauty there is out there. Not because I beat them over the head with the concept, just because I paint (or draw or photograph) beautiful and interesting things and because people enjoy looking at it.
"Ah.... interesting... so what does that tree in the center of the painting mean?"
"It means I decided to paint a tree you fucking moron."
"Ah. Deep. Very deep."
Having said that, I don't really think there's anything wrong with political or social art, I just don't do it myself, and I can't stand people who feel like it's the only worthwhile type of art. I personally think art should have some sort of aesthetic value, although I will concede that it doesn't have to agree with my sense of aesthetics.
So what is art? I dunno. What a cop-out, huh? You're damn right. I'm tired, fuck off. Anyways I can't remember what else I wanted to talk about. Blerg.
(Yeah, there was originally a point to this post, but it's since lost it.)
* - I was a member of the University Scholars, a program for "gifted" and "exceptional" students at NYU. I was an art student coming in with straight A's and B's from one of the top high schools in the country, who took (and did well in) AP (advanced placement, supposedly college-level) courses in things like history and science and programming, and got a 1500 on my SAT's - you're damn right they were interested in me. Not only that but I think frankly my art was pretty good too, so it wasn't like I was just a geek in artist clothing, I could actually perform in the art room as well. So this gave me extra leverage, and I transferred out (of the required introductory course) and into a 2nd year clay sculpture course.