When Is It Art?

A question came up on another blog that touched me, one that I wanted to look at: "How do you know if it will be art when you're through?" While I don't believe there is one answer, I'm interested in the kinds of answers one might give (and I'm interested in your reactions).

First, I think you have to look at what you want when you view a work deemed "art." I want: to be moved emotionally by the content and really feel something; inspired intellectually by the concept and made to think; or to be awed by the skill and technique it took to make the work. I don't expect to get all of those conditions from one piece, but I'm thrilled and completely blown away when I do. I always hope that seeing a work will make me want to go home and create something myself.

How would you achieve these qualities in your work?

Moved Emotionally. If it doesn't move you when you make it, it probably isn't going to move anyone else. What has to happen? You have to feel a strong emotion and work from that place, keeping that emotion in mind as you make marks or string words together. Inhabit the feeling like an actor and project your intentions through your choices.

Inspired Intellectually. Try starting with an underlying theme, a concept that will unify the piece. Investigate, learn something about the world as you work, something that you feel compelled to share with an audience. Sometimes you have to take a risk to do that. By manipulating objects and juxtaposing ideas think about how you can present a new way of thinking, seeing, or reading.

Skill, Technique, Materials. This is practice. This is studying other artwork. This is reading books about technique, taking classes, learning the basics and then the advanced details. Learn about what different materials do best and how to manipulate them so they do what you want them to do.

You may find that you are compelled to keep making work because you can't not make it. You have a message you want to communicate. And you feel the need to share it. This, I believe, is the artmaking process.


Lauren said…
Interesting that, in all our talks about the "stakes of a story," we've always focused on the stakes the characters face. We've rarely, if ever, framed it in terms of what's at stake for us as creators. It seems to me that's buried in what you write about in this post. As always, thanks for getting me thinking. And feeling.
Kayla said…

What resonates with me is your comment : if it doesn't move me emotionally when I make it,its probably not going to move anyone else. thanks for getting me to see this important point.