Friday, February 19, 2010

one art, please

You know, I've never understood the huge problem some people have with widespread access to art, and being an artist. The complaint that "oh, everyone is an artist/designer/writer/musician/etc. now" is one I've heard often, especially with the rise of the Internet as a promotional medium. It comes from a sense that art is somehow cheapened when a lot of people, many of whom aren't very good and some of whom are flat-out derivative, gum up the works with their creations, thereby making it harder for good artists to be seen.

What this argument also does is reinforce the idea that art is for "special" people cut from God's own wood for the sole purpose of creating, and that they are set apart from the masses in this regard. Problem is, if the masses are hedged into being mere observers with no incentive or encouragement to appreciate art on a deeper, more hands-on level, you can't really blame them for missing the importance of it. Our society is a hostile one towards artists in many ways, chiefly in the sense that arts funding is a joke here, and I think that's a symptom of how we separate artists into their own little group that the Folks aren't supposed to understand. This is an unhealthy arrangement for artists, too - self-impressed echo chambers that arbitrarily decide the monetary worth and importance of a given work don't help anyone, least of all themselves.

Plus, the separation is absurd in many other cultures. Bali, for example, treasures art to the point where everything, from religious services to food to wrapping presents, is an extension of their appreciation for it. Every small task has an aesthetic presence. I've heard similar things about China, Japan, and Vietnam, and most of continental Europe reveres art as vital to a productive and inquisitive society. Meanwhile, if someone here sees a painting that even hints at abstraction, one common response is a dismissive "oh, I could do that." And maybe that's true. And maybe the second half of that sentence should be " I think I will."

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