The age old question of ‘what is art’ is something that seems obscure and very unclear. It is debatable. There are hundreds of different definitions. Many words come to mind – expression, skill, visionary, technical, abstract, story telling, imagination, knowledge, seeing, the list goes on.
According to google art is ‘the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power.’ I would include performance art – music, dance, theater and literature of course.
There is good art and bad art – and that is also arguable. What makes art art is also questionable. We all have our opinions. Art has changed drastically through time and each age tells its own story. Impressionism, expressionism, abstraction, dadaism, cubism, the renaissance, modern art, contemporary art, constantly evolving as reflections of our times.
Being an artist is a way of being. We are blessed and cursed. We see in colors, visions or notes, or movement, or poetry. It’s a way of experiencing the world. It’s our reality. It’s also extremely emotional. The action of creating is emotional. The artist experience is so well expressed in the following quote by David Ackert:
“Artists are some of the most driven, courageous people on the face of the earth. They deal with more day-to-day rejection in one year than most people do in a lifetime. Every day, they face the financial challenge of living a freelance lifestyle, the disrespect of people who think they should get real jobs, and their own fear that they’ll never work again. Every day, they have to ignore the possibility that the vision they have dedicated their lives to is a pipe dream. With every note, stroke or movement, they stretch themselves, emotionally and physically, risking criticism and judgement. With every passing year, many of them watch as the other people their age achieve the predictable milestones of normal life – the car, the family, the house, the nest egg. Why? Because these artists are willing to give their entire lives to a moment – to that melody, that lyric, that chord, or that interpretation that will stir the audience’s soul. Artists are beings who have tasted life’s nectar in that crystal moment when they poured out their creative spirit and touched anothers heart. In that instant, they were as close to magic, God, and perfection as anyone could ever be. And in their own hearts, they know that to dedicate oneself to that moment is worth a thousand lifetimes.”
One of the most distressing moments in my life as an artist was something I was told during another financial pitfall. “Everyone has to sell something”. This may seem obvious to most people. It came as a heart wrenching blow to me. I am the worst salesmen in the world, without exaggeration. I couldn’t sell ice in the desert. It’s just not in my constitution. I am not persuasive. I live and let live. What was I thinking? To me, art has value, high value. The effort and dedication it takes to create something new that has never been seen, heard or felt by anyone ever……takes huge effort. Inspiration comes and goes. The vision appears and disappears. It is not something one can acquire easily.
Then, putting the vision to paper, canvas, to stage, to sound, is the biggest challenge. It is always an attempt. We know we will never quite get there, but the journey toward the ultimate expression of the vision is what we live for. We need to create harmony, arrangement, melody, composition, depth, intensity, a story, an interpretation, we need insight. If we manage to evoke feeling, we have achieved something. It’s about sharing. We want to share the vision. It is very human. We want to shake people out of apathy and indifference. We want the world to care. We want the world to feel. We want reassurance that we are not alone. ‘Do you feel what I feel’? ‘Do you see what I see’? We want to connect on a subconscious level. We are all human after all.
I write this while trying to connect to someone out there. Someone who sees the value. I am surrounded by our works, our studio overcrowded with artworks, attempts to connect with other humans. Will anyone see the value? Will anyone feel. I am reaching out, without agent, without marketing, without a gallerist. Artists have a place in this world. Imagine no music, no visual stimulation, no dance. We too need to exist, and we don’t ask for a lot, only a way to continue to share our human experience. An exchange of a door of opportunity for a door of perception.
This article was first published in the Cape Jewish Chronicle, October 2019.