Friday, January 14, 2011

What is art, what makes an artist?

I have been thinking a lot about what art is and what makes an artist an artist lately.  In my first year of college a few years back I was asked in my first art survey class the question: "what is art, what makes an artist?"

I remember very few things about that class.  A lot of photos of Robert Smithson's Spiral Jetty (which emerged from the water due to drought in 2004, when I took the class, and just by coincidence, it has only just emerged again and is walkable at this moment), a professor who was clearly obsessed with China, and for whatever reason, I remember with clarity this question and my answer.

So what is art?  There is, of course, no correct answer to this question.  I have thought about this compound question a lot over the years and my answer slowly evolves but at the moment I would answer it as follows.  "Art is in the eye of the beholder, art is not necessarily man made, art can be kinetic or static, and may only exist for an instant."  So all in all, art is everything, which justifies all art.  Some people may find Piet Mondrian's work boring and simple, where others may spend hours standing in front of a single piece and lose themselves in the color fields.  What is publicly accepted as art changes over time as well.  Excellent craftsmanship becomes art and falls out of vogue to more idea driven art and so on.

So the question remains half unanswered.  What makes an artist?  Now while my answer to the first part of the question evolves over time, my answer to this stays the same.  I have no way of comparing this to the views of others but I feel my answer may be somewhat unique here. "An artist is an individual who pursues perfection in a craft."  So in this answer there is a disjoint; while artists make art, not all art is made by artists.  Any person who crawls slowly toward the boundaries of their craft is in my eyes a true artist.  If you find a niche and settle in and refuse to adapt, to advance... are you an artist? Or simply a craftsman who specializes in something?

In my definition anyone can be an artist, a painter, a photographer, an architect, a chemist, a driver, a farmer, a door man... It simply matters that while in pursuit of anything, you drive to be better at it, and you do your best to do it well.

So here are some examples of art, they may be varied, but in my eyes they are all valid pieces of art.

A lunar calendar for 2011

This is Killian Martin again, the video is the piece, while both the videographer, Brett Novak and the skater are artists in their own right.

To tie into the previous post, a contemporary ski jump by Zaha Hadid's firm.

I could go on forever, and the format of a blog makes it tough for me to share music, spacial, science, and other art.  This will have to do for now.  How would you answer the question?  What is art, what makes an artist?

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