Tuesday, August 4, 2009

What is art?

That's the big question isn't it? how does one define art?

When Mike Diana was convicted of obscenity and ordered not to draw anymore (yes he really had a court order put on his head not to put a pencil on paper with the threat that his house could be searched anytime without a warrant) his work was deemed to not have any social merit at all and was banned. So is that how one defines art? By how much "social merit" it has? If it contributes nothing to society, it must be worthless then. (I guess all those outsider artists are out of luck.)

But see there's this guy named Thomas Kinkade. You may have seen some of his paintings adorning the walls of your grandmother's house or advertised in supermarket tabloids. Here's his website if you have a strong stomach:

I like to define art by the impact it has on not only the senses, but the mind. Diana's work my be crude but it's certainly not forgettable. It leaves a definite impression on the mind. Kinkade's work is also memorable, but it's memorable because of how mediocre it is. If middle aged women didn't want to jump his man snake and buy his blandness in droves, he wouldn't be remembered at all. But maybe it's a good thing he's successful. After all, Hitler was a frustrated landscape painter, just think what Kinkade could have become? Hmmmm, maybe if Hitler had been born in the 1970s, he'd have success selling crap to old ladies....

Off tangent, sorry. I was going to say something like, "well, if you define art by the impact it has, then couldn't you say that punching someone in the face is art?"
Well, you're not really creating something by doing that now are you? Can destruction be an art in itself? People often say things like "there's an art to cooking eggs" or "there's an art to knocking someone's teeth out with a lead pipe." I think they really mean a certain finesse though. Anyone can drop eggs in a pan and cook them but artless eggs would turn out sloppy and burnt wouldn't they? Anyone can hit someone in the mouth with a pipe, but to knock a whole front row full or even chip a back molar would take a certain amount of skill.

So...by this definition, for it to be art it not only has to have some sort of impact, good or bad, but it also has to have a certain amount of skill behind it. Just about anyone can scratch out stick figures on paper but few people can draw like Katie Rice or Roman Dirge (Name drop of my two favorite artists!).

I'm really just blathering but I've pondered on this for awhile with no clear cut answers. In my opinion, it's only not art if it's bland and created with no skill, but what of this "social merit" bullshit? What do you guys think?


Justin said...

"Social merit"? When I read that I thought it meant either significance to what's going on in society, or mainstream-fanbase worthy. Boiled Angel is both, really.

What is art? Uh, something one creates to express their inner neuroses in some way, I believe. Even Thomas Kinkade did that, if you think about it. If not neuroses, then perhaps hidden corners of the mind, or even ones visible. Good art expresses these more clearly. Art must be interesting to the artist, if no one else. If a drawing has life, it is realistic, and not just taxidermy like Thomas Kinkade's stuff. Even children's scribbles are capable of being realistic if they have LIFE. I hate modernistic art, but that's a very long story I've have to write about some other time.

Have I helped?

Kurdt said...

Hmmm, interesting. Thanks for the insight!

I suppose soul has a lot to do with it. Corporate art really has none since a corporation isn't living and is run by people who sold theirs off for money. Other people seem to like it fine, but I can't seem too...

"Art must be interesting to the artist, if no one else."
I think that should be the first rule for any artist/musician/writer to go by. Create for yourself first and then see if other people like what you're doing and if they don't like it, do it anyways.

I think by "social merit" they meant "does it contribute to the betterment of society" since they just saw it as disgusting trash. Stupid moral guardians.

Kurdt said...

I'm starting to re-think ability too. I'm thinking of all those old punk bands I love that could hardly play but could still convey an amazing amount of feeling. I do think you need to work at your craft and try to improve as much as possible, but what if you're able to convey what you want through crude drawings or scream-o music?

Justin said...

"...but what if you're able to convey what you want through crude drawings or scream-o music?"

That stuff's not for me, but for the people who do it, if that is what they enjoy doing, more power to 'em, the crazy lunatics! As long as what they want doesn't take anything away from what I like, I'm OK with that. That sounds selfish, doesn't it? It's just a matter of personal taste when you boil it all down.