Dedd Pixel

Archive for March, 2013

Is it Art?

by on Mar.17, 2013, under Art

My husband and I both earned degrees in Computer Engineering and a liberal arts field: he in English Creative Writing and I in Studio Arts.  Our immediate core of good friends are all tech people who earned degrees in Computer Engineering or Computer Science and as such tend to be solely practical minded.  Often, we go out to restaurants and have a good time and while there notice the various artwork hanging on the wall.  Often, the age-old question comes up for them.

Is that really art?

The conversation then usually devolves into my husband and I arguing that it is art, while they all complain that the piece is just some old rusty metal that was found in a field and cut into a series of squares and that they could do that so it cannot be art.

I think they should stop being so hard on themselves.

First of all, they are not” doing that.”  They are not looking at some old rusty metal that they found in a field and viewing it from the perspective of how they could transform it into something beautiful and/or meaningful.  No, if they happened to see some old rusty metal, likely they would not even notice its presence.  It’s easy to see a work after the fact and assume that you are fully capable of creating it yourself, but what these just-engineers are not able to realize is that the process is more than the physical creation of the object.  There is also the conception, the act of creation (of which the artists himself is not required to do), the presentation and the reception from the viewer.  They might be able to perform the creation step, but only after much research and analysis of how to work metal effectively.  Moreover, in this instance, they were not able to conceive of the idea without the finished work being right there in front of them.  They certainly weren’t able to present it in a visually compelling way and the fact that they are not able to receive the work as art that speaks to them and their experiences is their problem not the artist’s.

Secondly, they really should stop being so hard on themselves…

They seem to be conflating whether or not they think they could create something similar as determining whether or not something can be art.  What they don’t realize is that they are fully capable of creating art.  Just because they are able to do something, doesn’t make it not art.  When (or if) they create, do they do it purely for function or do they try to incorporate some beauty, or emotion, or meaning to it?  If they were willing, they are fully capable of opening their minds and creating something artistic.  I find it sad that for one of these individuals, who can make beautiful quilts, she doesn’t see what she does as artistic; she feels that she is just making quilts.  Despite this, the works are beautiful and are certainly art to others even if she feels her work is without meaning.

The question of ‘is it art’ was answered long ago.  Duchamp’s Fountain was one of the most pivotal pieces of last century.  This realization that anything can be art is incredible because we can then move beyond asking the simple “is it art” and begin asking the more meaningful “is this effective art?”  Is the artist effective at addressing a point and/or is he effective at evoking an emotion from the viewer?  In the case of my friends, he was not effective, but only because they don’t have experiences where old rusty pieces of metal can bring back memories or be viewed as beautiful.  For me, they remind me of the aging farm equipment I see out in east Boulder county.  I marvel at the beautiful color variations as the rust patterns flow over each individual piece.  The rust is a natural occurrence and its patterns develop by chance.  Framing the rust using just the metal they formed on, cutting each piece exactly and precisely provides a nice contrast to the randomness contained within.  For me, it was effective, beautiful, and of course, it is art.

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