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Suzi Gablik nails it again

January 31, 2011

Regaled by marketing strategies for artists, websites for selling your work more effectively etc, I am always gratified to find some support for the view that this all leaves out a great portion of what art’s purpose is.  I have found staunch support for this view, once again from a long-standing heroine of mine, Suzi Gablik. I came across an article of hers recently which completely confirms my own take on the subject, so I’ll share some of it here, paraphrased.

There are two predominant schools of artists right now, the familiar autonomous artist, isolated from society, working with an art ‘in defiance of the social good and without any moral earnestness’. And secondly, artists who want art to have some socially worthy agenda outside of itself.

Old art systems and networks (dealer-curator-museum-critic) are not serving the new impulses in the arts, and they are showing signs of strain. New networks and collectives are emerging in the internet, creating a completely new context for art and artists. 

Gablik sees signs of art becoming ‘purposeful’ again. All her professional life she has been writing about alternatives to art as a commodity and has been considering art in the context of spiritual and moral values, not just commercial ones. 

Arts and ethics have been split for a long while, but now ‘a more ethical artistic vision is already functioning among us’.  She cites examples like Adbusters, and the Greenmuseum– artists who are taking a stance on some social or environmental problem and using their creativity to bring healing, understanding, and awareness into that area.

All of this clearly represents a critical shift in the definition of an art object. These networking social activities, which integrate complex strands from many disciplines into an open unity and bridge many different areas of knowledge, also require a real rewiring of institutional DNA. Specialization has been displaced by another organizing principle—decentralized creativity—in which the individual artist becomes a structural component in a society of selves that fit their contributions together in mutual enrichment.   

Gablik sees the period of ‘value free experiment coming to an end’. And that the overspecialisation and division of professional fields is being gradually absorbed by an intimate connection of all fields to each other. She sees us all moving toward an understanding that art is integrated into all aspects of life and all aspects of life are contained in art.

For the whole article click on this link  – Suzi Gablik   Beyond the Disciplines: Art without Borders.

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What Evert taught me

March 22, 2009

evert-book-inscription

Book inscription from Dutch calligrapher, Evert van Dijk

One of my oldest and dearest friends here in Holland is an impassioned calligrapher and retired teacher of handicapped children.

My encounter with him when I first came to live here changed my life as an artist irrevocably.  Evert saw my dilemma clearly. I was no longer growing artistically because I was caught in the prison of the  prevailing aesthetic in the middleclass American  milieu where I grew up. I’d  learned that art had to be ‘beautiful’ and that my calligraphy had to be as close to perfection as the human hand would allow.

Evert, with his wonderfully ebullient personality and outspoken views, blasted through that shell of pretense and released my authenticity. I think this is the task of all true teachers and mentors.

This altered view is also what releases calligraphy from craft and lifts it to art. My letters and mark making became much more expressive of who I was, and this had a ripple effect throughout my life; one I am only truly coming to understand about 20 years later.

In the article I am writing about art and dementia care, this theme of authenticity keeps reappearing.
Artists accept people with dementia as completely whole, viable, interesting human beings, and therefore often elicit lucid repsonses where trained staff have failed.   In an art session, the person ‘s markmaking is seen in the context of authenticity rather than conventional aesthetics.  I am not after a pretty picture (this would expose the person and me to the potential of ‘failure’)  instead, I look for interaction and engagement.  The rules change, a person’s  raw and spontaneous line becomes the new context for  ‘beautiful’.  The Japanese have a philosphy of aesthetics based on this called Wabi Sabi*.  

It is the ability to see the worth in something or someone just as they are without requiring that they fit a preconceived ideal.

 

*Wabi Sabi is an asethetic of the fragile, weathered and transient. It is the opposite of the Western tendency to aspire to the imposing, large and powerful. We idealize a perfect rose in bloom, Wabi Sabi cherishes the rose past its prime:  a chipped flea market wooden table with flaking paint as opposed to the latest design statement in glass and chrome.

Quick art

October 16, 2008

Materials: iroko offcut, handmade vegetable paper, oil pastel tinting of wood, old camera filter, collage paper, silk thread. Size about 1 x 3 inches

I love doing these little assemblages at the beginning of the day, because, especially if it is a day with lots of business stuff to deal with, I get the feeling of having gotten my art time in.

They take so little time primarily because I always have these materials within hand’s reach in my studio.

I recently went through my collage scrap box and weeded out*, but still am left with a selection of rice papers, old wrapping paper scraps, scraps of handwriting and calligraphy on tea tinted (pseudo parchment) paper, postage stamps, hand stamped and rollered papers from my monoprint work, scraps of letters from friends with cherished handwriting and postmarks, my hand painted brown wrapping papers and tissue papers, etc.
In a separate hand sized plastic box I have precious scraps of hand marbled paper, beautiful cancelled stamps and other mini-treasures that would normally get discarded for being too small to keep.

In my work table drawer I have a small sewing kit with a tangle of silk and cotton embriodery threads. In a pinch I can go to another drawer and find a sampling of my hand painted silk scraps, felts, wools, and rainbow nylons from my old umbrella collection.

 

 

* (I made up little cellophane packages of extra papers, if anyone is interested in having some I can mail them easily. They cost 2.50 euros each.)