Monday, August 22, 2011

Resharpening Cutting-Edge Art

Seeing the sepia-toned, collage-style wallpaper in the coffee store made me put down my hot chocolate for a moment. I loved it (both the drink and the wallpaper). From what I remember—this was a few years ago—the topics were postage and travel. The aesthetics were pleasing. Well, that ends that, I thought at the time. Can't make sepia-toned collage work anymore if it's showing up in a chain.

So it goes and maybe it's natural. Over and over artists move into ghost towns or low-rent districts, fix 'em up, do exciting things and…there goes the neighborhood. Expensive lofts are built advertising the arty feel, rents go up, artists are forced out. Art is parallel with life here. Artists create something, it's picked up by commercial media, splashed about willy nilly, and suddenly it's a cliché. The real cutting edge becomes a dull prop.

Is this, consciously or unconsciously, why some artists guard their "secret formulas?" I don't hear it often because those aren't the circles I chase around, but I have heard the response to the question, "How did you do that?" to be "I'm not sayin'." I see why they might conceal their methods, but I've always felt that sharing information is the best way to make it available for the right person to grab hold of it and do something terrific. Sometimes I'm just as satisfied to learn, share things as I learn or figure out, and move on.

But if I—you—they—didn't? Would the vibrant, new, cutting edge art hang on a little longer? Well, just look at that sentence again. Cutting edge can't exist forever. If we must hold onto the metaphor, a knife, even a great knife, always needs resharpening. So that is our task: to continue resharpening ourselves, our outlooks, our art so that it stays fresh and meaningful and inspiring.


3 comments:

ronnie said...

I agree - I think if your art relies on a guarded technique in order to make it 'special' - then it's inevitable you're only going to be 'special' for a short while..... whereas if you share what you know, both you and your work have the opportunity to not only create wonderful work - but wonderful connections also...

Wendy Feldberg said...

Alisa,

Thank you for all your sharings. I have your books and rely on them for inspiration and instruction. Your comments above about the "cutting edge" are very insightful. May I refer to them on my blog? I feel as you do, that the sharing will always come back to you in generous harvest, even if "freeloaders" are always out there. The only thing we can really say we own outright are our mistakes. The rest comes to us from others

Best

Wendy

Alisa said...

Wendy,
Thank you so much—certainly I'd be happy for you to share my comments and link to the post. Interesting thought that all we own outright are our mistakes. I'll have to think about that.