I had a wonderful opportunity to be the presenter this weekend for a SAQA (Studio Art Quilt Associates) group in Melbourne, Florida. We spent time thinking through the difference between — 1. ART, and 2. NOT ART. Is there a difference, and does it matter?
This is an image from a cave painting at Lascaux, France, which may have been created as early as 20,000 BC. This is ART. No question. And not because it evidences a lot of technical mastery or sophisticated materials. It is art because it has a specific expressive, communicative intent. This MEANS something. When I read descriptions of how hard it was to get down into the caves, how small the space, and I imagine a prehistoric person intentionally doing so for whatever ritualistic purpose this represented, I am in awe. It may have been considered magic. Or it may have been a rite of passage. But these were not created lightly or haphazardly. They have a meaning.
These images represent mass-produced decorating accessories shoppers can find almost anywhere. They are NOT ART. That does not necessarily mean they are ugly, or that one might not enjoy using them for decor in a home. But even the original illustration that was done in order to manufacture these did not hold personal meaning in any way like the paintings on the cave wall. This is graphic design on-assignment.
I spent many years in my professional career working in commercial printing. I have created graphic design on-assignment. I have been involved in its production. It is not an evil or demeaning endeavor. But it is also not art.
In our time together this weekend, the group of textile artists gathered worked to think through the importance of original intent. And the process of developing a voice that is singular. And what techniques we can use to get beyond the creative traps that make us produce work that’s less than what we had hoped to create. We discussed the importance of all that happens before a specific work is even started.
We concluded that there is ART. There is NOT ART. They are not the same. And it matters which you are creating.
When I create my own artwork, it is my hope that I’ve done enough up-front work to make the piece meaningful. I want to have worked through what it is I am trying to communicate, and then use the studio time and the techniques at my disposal to accomplish the vision.
When a collector brings a work into a home, it is my hope that there is enough that’s interesting, personal and layered to provide new things to discover for a long time. For me, that’s the fulfillment of the time, thought and emotion that I put into my work.
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