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jd callow
06-09-2007, 08:49 PM
George,
That was not clear to me, but I'm not the sharpest knife in the drawer.

bjorke
06-09-2007, 11:04 PM
I think the word 'artist' need not be confined to great or good artists.I do.

Sure, one can apply it in a patronizing way, like to the six year old who shows you the school project he's using as a Mother's Day gift. But when applied to adults in any non-sarcastic way, then I will draw the line around a rather small circle.

It's sad that photography is so deeply plagued by this problem. You don't see it among pianists or dancers or sculptors. My hunch is that it is a disease of consumer culture, the idea that purchasing of items (cameras, Rodinal, matte cutters,...) provide authoratative artistic validation -- a message that is trumpeted at us many times daily from many different sources.


http://img.alibaba.com/photo/10948663/Leica_M7_50th_Anniversary_Titanium_Kit_IN_BOX.jpg

I can put Neosporin and bandaids on my kids' "owwwies" & I do own a nice set of German cutlery -- but would you call me an EMT, much less a surgeon? And if so, can I examine your head?

DrPablo
06-09-2007, 11:46 PM
I do.

Sure, one can apply it in a patronizing way, like to the six year old who shows you the school project he's using as a Mother's Day gift. But when applied to adults in any non-sarcastic way, then I will draw the line around a rather small circle.

If I take your meaning right, an artist is not someone who simply makes art.

An artist is something more than that.

I know this is unanswerable, but where do you place that threshold -- and what do you call everyone who falls below it? Amateur artist? Dilettante? Poseur? What about the person who has something profound to say, but lacks the technical skill to say it? What about the person with technical prowess but has nothing meaningful to say?



I can put Neosporin and bandaids on my kids' "owwwies" & I do own a nice set of German cutlery -- but would you call me an EMT, much less a surgeon? And if so, can I examine your head?

No, because there is a mandated training regime and a credentialling process for an EMT and for a surgeon. In fact, if you're a senior surgeon at a foreign medical school and you want to practice surgery in the United States, you are required to repeat your residency training to be credentialled here. If you pose as a health care worker but lack the official credentials, guess where you're headed when you get caught? But the FDA approves Neosporin and Bacitracin and Ibuprofen and Preparation H for lay use with usage guidelines and disclaimers on the packaging. But guess what -- as a physician with a DEA number and a medical license I can (and do) prescribe both ibuprofen and bacitracin in ways that are not written on the packaging at CVS.

But to be an artist does not require any formal recognition as such. Yes, I realize there are organizations and bodies of all sorts. But that doesn't prevent someone from being the next great American sculptor if they keep to themselves.

Feel free to examine my head, though -- sans German cutlery please.

MattKing
06-10-2007, 12:17 AM
I"m going to start calling myself a "tsitra", and hope someone will start saying I've got it ass backward :):).

I'm lucky/cursed enough to have a vocational/professional label that is recognized, and has financial and other values (I'm a lawyer), but in general those labels are of questionable value.

If I take a good photograph, it has value.

If I print or otherwise display a good photograph, it may very well have artistic value, or historic value, or sentimental value, or value as a source of memories or maybe financial value (or maybe some other type of value).

Artistic value is one of the possibilities - and a really interesting one. I think artistic value is both difficult to define, and interesting to discuss. It may be the most important, and may be the longest lasting, but maybe not.

I find this and the other parallel threads running at this time to be both fascinating and valuable, but I am concerned how focussed they are with definitions and labels.

The best "Art" I've ever seen in the "flesh" are the paintings of El Greco, and Gaudi architecture in Barcelona. Somehow, words don't seem appropriate to, describe them, but I honour those who try.

Matt

jd callow
06-10-2007, 12:19 AM
I do.

Sure, one can apply it in a patronizing way, like to the six year old who shows you the school project he's using as a Mother's Day gift. But when applied to adults in any non-sarcastic way, then I will draw the line around a rather small circle.

I assume this only applies to you and the work you are exposed to. Otherwise it would create a bit of a conundrum for the rest of us because I would imagine that your tastes, sensibilities and experiences would dictate a much different circle of artists than the next person. The work you see is certain to be different than what others are seeing as well.



It's sad that photography is so deeply plagued by this problem. You don't see it among pianists or dancers or sculptors. My hunch is that it is a disease of consumer culture, the idea that purchasing of items (cameras, Rodinal, matte cutters,...) provide authoratative artistic validation -- a message that is trumpeted at us many times daily from many different sources.

I must admit I never thought of it as a consumer thing.
I assume that you are referring to those who call their work 'Fine Art Photography' and that you attribute this to their purchase of cameras and all the regalia(?). I do bristle a bit when someone will say they are a 'Fine Art Photographer' and then lambaste anyone who calls themselves an artist -- it's ironic that these folks tend not to call themselves artists. Most people I know who call themselves artists (and they don't do it very often due to the stigma) often have at least an undergraduate degree in art and they all pursue art as if their life depended on it. I won't presume to decide which are *really* artists and which are not.

I do, as I'm sure you do, try and find as many as I can and add them to my 'circle.'

bjorke
06-10-2007, 04:17 AM
...they all pursue art as if their life depended on it....This is an important criterion. Note that it disconnects from issues of money and fame and popularity, even accessability of the work.

David H. Bebbington
06-10-2007, 06:53 AM
I wonder how Warhol will be viewed after Marilyn and Campbell soup are no longer a memory?


In my view, as a post-modern genius and prophet who was among the first to understand the importance of fame, celebrity and self-promotion totally divorced from talent or content - using trash techniques and trash materials to make (possibly by accident) a profound statement about a trashy society.

jstraw
06-10-2007, 08:26 AM
I split with bjorke on this point. I think it's important to be able to recognize when the word "artist" is being used as an honorific and when it's not...and not to limit its use to that.

I believe that "art" can be a term used to describe a work comprised of specific characteristics, without involving value judgments regarding merit. I believe the maker of art is an artist.

DrPablo
06-10-2007, 09:21 AM
This is an important criterion. Note that it disconnects from issues of money and fame and popularity, even accessability of the work.

So then you'd discount all the great artists who had some other primary profession?

Or would you project this 'necessity' on them by virtue of their work's quality?

I think there are a lot of failed artists who produce worthless crap because of lack of vision and / or technical skill -- but they've still got that burning, and they do it as if their life depends on it (until they're starving and they need to do something else because their life really does depend on it).

I understand the criteria you use -- and still the 'artist' you envision seems little more to me than a Platonic ideal. There isn't really a clear cut way to distinguish that which is 'artist' from that which is not 'artist'. Rather, there is a spectrum of human engagement that approaches this archetypal, metaphysical figure of the artist -- and yet there's no agreement as to where on this spectrum we're allowed to use this particular label.

jovo
06-10-2007, 09:39 AM
I think it's important to be able to recognize when the word "artist" is being used as an honorific and when it's not...


Exactly! I prefer to think of the word as a descriptor of perceived excellence...preferably by someone other than the person making the work. It's a little like everyone being 'special'. Well, they are, but now the term becomes meaningless. But DrPablo is quite correct..."there is a spectrum of human engagement that approaches this archetypal, metaphysical figure of the artist -- and yet there's no agreement as to where on this spectrum we're allowed to use this particular label." Clearly, in this thread, while there's no agreement, there certainly have been some strong assertions made. I guess 'art' and 'artist' will remain elusive terms indefinitely.

DrPablo
06-10-2007, 09:52 AM
Clearly, in this thread, while there's no agreement, there certainly have been some strong assertions made. I guess 'art' and 'artist' will remain elusive terms indefinitely.

I think that's what makes art (and the artist) so important. They are not definable, quantifiable concepts. And whatever they are, they contribute something to our society that is neither definable nor quantifiable. They encompass human emotion, experience, and ingenuity. They're so important to us as a society -- and yet not in a way that's as concrete as, say, food or electricity or sanitation, where you can rationally explain why they're important. If we could rigidly define those terms, we would probably be referring to something other than what we really mean.

MurrayMinchin
06-10-2007, 10:25 AM
"Artist" is a word with the marrow sucked out of it. From my Canadian Oxford Dictionary;


artist noun 1 a person who practises any of the fine arts, esp. painting, sculpting, etc. 2 a person who practises the performing arts. 3 a person who shows great skill and inspiration in a particular activity (a progammer who is a true artist) 4 a devotee; a habitual practiser of a specified (usu. reprehensible) activity (con artist; put-down artist) 5 recording artist.

So by this measure, as soon as you practise any of the fine arts (at any skill level) you can be called an artist.

Beware the "artiste" though;


derogatory a person who cultivates a pretentiously artistic attitude or lifestyle.

Murray

catem
06-10-2007, 12:45 PM
Exactly! I prefer to think of the word as a descriptor of perceived excellence...preferably by someone other than the person making the work. It's a little like everyone being 'special'.

I don't see it like that, I see it above all as quite an ordinary word, about a way some people choose to communicate. Not in a pretentious way, which seems so often the damning descriptor, (no more pretentious than any other sphere of life). More usually because they don't know how to do it any other way. They just do it because they have to, because they can, and because it's the thing, to them, that makes most sense of being in this world and passing the time in this small life we have. Sometimes what they do makes equal sense to other people, sometimes it doesn't. That's life.

For goodness sake lets take the 'rarity value' if not the 'ego' (and with it undue reverence/disparagement/superiority-inferiority complexes) a little out of 'artist'.

jd callow
06-10-2007, 12:55 PM
I agree whole heartedly.

Videbaek
06-10-2007, 01:06 PM
The side gallery of the Louvre is deserted on this Sunday afternoon. Not even a security guard in sight. I am not yet overwhelmed by the sheer size and quantity of the pictures, all executed with consummate skill, all remarked upon at the time of their creation, famous and valuable enough to have ended up here. I walk slowly through the rooms, the leather soles of my shoes making a hollow sound on the wooden floor, black with age. I enter yet another room, looking to my left, and stop, transfixed. Rembrandt's last self-portrait hangs on the left wall of the room, in the middle, the place of honour. I look to the right and there, directly opposite his last self-portrait, hangs his first self-portrait. The two Rembrandts look each other square in the eyes. A feeling wells up in me which is hard to describe. A tinge of fear, perhaps. Surprise. I didn't know these pictures were here, in what seems to be a forgotten side gallery. I didn't know they were hanging like this. Shaking a little, I walk over to Rembrandt as an old man. I don't want to go too close, at least not at first. I stand about seven feet away, leaning forward. He is dressed in a dirty grey smock, paint-splattered, frayed. A dirty grey cloth cap rests on his head. Beneath it, his white hair is long and disorderly. His head, face and upper body are illuminated by an unearthly, holy light. He is old. His worn face glows forth, looking at me in the eyes with an expression that is calm, accepting, unutterably sad. In his right hand, which he holds slightly behind in shadow, he grasps a palette and brush. He has lost his beloved wife Saskia. He has lost his beloved son Titus. He has lost his house and possessions. But he has not lost the one thing for which he has always lived -- his ability to make contact with other human beings through painting. He lives, in all his sadness and pain. He looks out at me, and I look back at him. Slowly, I go closer. Closer, closer. With my nose about a foot away from the painting's surface, I pore over the brush marks, the dabs of paint applied impasto, looking for the source of the miraculous light. I spot a bristle embedded in a thick swirl of paint. A bristle from his brush! With the close inspection, I see his failing eyesight and how he accepts it, building it into his technique, how he indicates form according to what he sees with total honesty. I am in the presence of greatness, and I am both shaken and elated. I draw back, and turn to his first self-portrait.

I laugh out loud. He is perhaps twenty-one, in the full flush of arrogant youth. He is dressed like a dandy. On his head rests a carmine cap loaded with feathers that dangle over his face, rudely glowing with health and vitality. He smiles, even smirks, over his golden, youthful beard. His eyes twinkle with the knowledge that he can paint circles around any contemporary who would be so foolish as to challenge him. Ha! He delights in the rich commissions he is beginning to receive. Wealth awaits him! Glory! Women! Wine! Song! The painting technique is sublime. Each stroke is executed with the greatest certainty and confidence. Each detail as sure-footed as a gazelle in flight. Already, one can see the sense of chiaroscuro and drama which will build to make him one of the greatest painters of biblical scenes. The colour is luxurious but not immodest. He is already far more than an Artist. He is a Master. He can do anything.

I turn and look again at old Rembrandt across the room. How the mighty have fallen. And yet there is no pathos in the room. Gratitude is what I now feel. Gratitude that such a man lived, gratitude that his pictures have been preserved and kept safe by people who understood greatness, so that they now hang here for me to see.

jstraw
06-10-2007, 01:59 PM
I don't see it like that, I see it above all as quite an ordinary word, about a way some people choose to communicate. Not in a pretentious way, which seems so often the damning descriptor, (no more pretentious than any other sphere of life). More usually because they don't know how to do it any other way. They just do it because they have to, because they can, and because it's the thing, to them, that makes most sense of being in this world and passing the time in this small life we have. Sometimes what they do makes equal sense to other people, sometimes it doesn't. That's life.

For goodness sake lets take the 'rarity value' if not the 'ego' (and with it undue reverence/disparagement/superiority-inferiority complexes) a little out of 'artist'.

Precisely... which is why the "exactly" in response to my previous post is kind of amusing. Yes, I was talking about the need to be clear about distinction between a simple term describing someone that makes art and the honorific but I'm not at all for reserving it as an honor.

Bill Mobbs
06-10-2007, 02:11 PM
Svend Videbak,

My assumption is that you are a photographer, perhaps even an artistic one, I know you are a very good writer! Thanks for your thoughts.

Bill

bjorke
06-11-2007, 12:34 AM
In my view, as a post-modern genius and prophet who was among the first to understand the importance of fame, celebrity and self-promotion totally divorced from talent or content - using trash techniques and trash materials to make (possibly by accident) a profound statement about a trashy society.I'd give credit for that to R. Mutt.

bjorke
06-11-2007, 12:40 AM
So then you'd discount all the great artists who had some other primary profession?I said an important criterion, not the important criterion. I don't exclusde, say, Anton Chekov.

I think the word "artist," like "art," is the sort of word best described as a fuzzy family of definitions -- read Wittgenstein or George Lakoff for a longer discussion of this idea (Wittgenstein famously described how difficult it is to define the word "game").

I choose to restrict my definition because frankly I really don't have a lot of time and there's far too much Great Stuff for me to be wasting my time on wishful thinking. If my attention is to be invested, I expect good ROI.

jd callow
06-11-2007, 01:26 AM
In my view, as a post-modern genius and prophet who was among the first to understand the importance of fame, celebrity and self-promotion totally divorced from talent or content - using trash techniques and trash materials to make (possibly by accident) a profound statement about a trashy society.

I suspect that his art work will have an entirely different meaning and impact to those who view it without an indepth knowledge of his time. Even those with knowledge of post wwii america will not see it as we do. Maybe because I'm from a slightly different era, I see Warhol a bit differently than you do.