I haven’t made any art at all. Not lately. Oops. Life, or lack thereof, has gotten in my way. Here it is. Happy July. Spring semester has been over for awhile. I’m not keeping up with my personal creative endeavors. I’m not really surprised though. I have two jobs. And outside of work, I’m just kind of lazy. So for tonight’s post, I’m traveling back in time to a few months ago—to when I felt a little more inspired to talk about art. Please read this condensed version of an essay I wrote for my Art History II class in Spring 2016:
An Examination of Fearless Artists
Saddled with some strange combination of excitement and boredom, I sped past hundreds of years of precious artwork, only stopping occasionally to pseudo-admire perfect paintings and statues so realistic that you would swear their marble clothing was moving with every breath of air. Yet I did not have time for these beautiful things – I was in Boston for just a weekend, and I had made it to the Boston Museum of Fine Art with only a few hours to spare. I desperately wanted to see their collection of contemporary art. Then, I thought, perhaps I would feel something. That is the point, no? Art makers have a feeling and they translate this feeling into a visual experience. And contemporary art is the epitome of this concept. No longer are we content with polished paintings of the Virgin Mary. We are hungry for what we have never seen, and we rely on artists to keep pushing the boundaries of art, and thus the boundaries of what art is capable of doing to us. I think of Jason Rhodes, Marina Abramović, Pina Bausch – outrageous and brilliant – experiencing their work is the ultimate orgasm of the psyche.
In the contemporary art exhibit at the Boston Museum, I was thoroughly bored. Perhaps it was the weather, or the position of the planets, but I was not feeling the monumental moment of intense emotion that I was expecting. At least, until I passed a small room that was closed in preparation for an exhibit. Through the doorway, a folded up box leaned against a white wall. It was nothing. Just an empty box in a room that was in transition. Everyone walked by it, much more eager to stare at whatever was around the corner, whatever was labeled “art.” But I spent time with the empty box in the empty room and admired the silent negative space, the strong angles, the muted palette. (I also felt like I had been in art school too long and had reached a new level of pretentiousness, establishing an emotional connection with an old box). And yet I stand by my reaction because I am innately bound to my craft – the craft of experimentation, of recklessness, of process/not product, of forcing viewers to experience something that they would never otherwise experience.
And so inevitably I must raise the stereotypical question of, ‘what is art?’ Is there really a definition? No, I do not think so. Nothing is automatically art just as nothing is automatically not art. Art has an ever-changing definition that is impossible to pin down. Throughout the history of mankind, the definition of acceptable art has faced constant change, and often those at the forefront of said change are criticized, ridiculed, and dismissed.
I left the Boston Museum of Fine Art feeling drained. Centuries of artwork to admire, and yet I spent the most time with a folded up box in an empty room. Am I the reason that people scoff at contemporary art? No. I must tell myself no. No idea is too radical. As artists and as art consumers, we must not be afraid to move forward and seek out new and challenging experiences, both visually and mentally. Gone are the days of gold leaf encrusted Virgin and Childs – today art is the ultimate freedom. To create and express with no boundaries – this will exist as long as art is art.
Above: installation at the Boston Museum of Fine Art