No, really. Art is a literal piece of garbage. But Meagan! Don’t you love art!? Why would you, an artist, say that you ask? Because it’s true. And I’ll explain why I’m saying this below.
Example A: Tim Noble and Sue Webster –
Source: Jill Harness at mentalfloss.com
Yes, a literal pile of garbage has been turned into an interesting piece of art. At first glance, it’s just a heap of trash. But when the time is taken to shed light in the right angle it tells a different story.
My point is that who the hell gets to decide what is, or isn’t art? Is it an oil painting on a an 11 x 17 canvas? A pile of garbage? Or is it a bunch of wires and lights blinking to the tune of Salvador Dali’s last breathe? It’s so ambiguous that I have personally struggled with this question many times. I’ve been that person in an art gallery looking at a blank canvas thinking, “What the hell am I even looking at?” .
There are some things that are just obvious. You can tell by looking at a carefully crosshatched, photorealistic drawing that it is art. It took a hell of a lot skill. But does it say anything? Does it have a message? What if it just…looks really neat? Is it still art? In which case, is art only the things that look pretty?
What about something grotesque or horrifying? Is that art?
How about something that is just…questionable? Is that what art is? Something that makes you ponder, and question?
Example B: Marcel DuChamp “Fountain”, 1917
This is a urinal. According to the artist the message was, “I was drawing people’s attention to the fact that art is a mirage. A mirage, exactly like an oasis appears in the desert. It is very beautiful until, of course, you are dying of thirst. But you don’t die in the field of art. The mirage is solid.” I kind of get it, but also kind of don’t.
It was submitted for an art show, and was promptly excluded from the Society’s inaugural exhibition according to newsartnet.com. So, it makes you wonder, if it was excluded from this fancy art show does that make it just a urinal? Or is it still considered art?
In order to even submit a piece to an art show you have to pay a fee. They always say that these fees are for the gallery upkeep, or for the jurors to keep things going. So, that right there shows that if you don’t have any money, you can’t submit anything. Does that mean that all those sculptures and paintings that you worked endlessly on, which are sitting in your basement because you can’t afford to pay the gallery fee, are art? Or are they not?
I’m not going to even talk about those elite art galleries that you have to a member of their group, in addition to paying a submission fee. I’m just. Not. Going. To. Get. Into. It.
Anyway, my pent up frustration at snobby art galleries aside, does someone even have to be an artist to decide what is art? Often, it is the person with the most money who gets to be the judge. If I pick up a flower, frame it, and then sell it for $500 have I just swindled someone out of their money? Or did I actually create some art?
I won’t go on much more because really, people have been asking this question for years. I am not the first, nor the last to ponder this dilemma. In my own opinion, art is something that activates the senses. It is not just one thing. It’s a feeling. An emotion. It’s a visual, auditory, physical sensation sometimes. Someone, somewhere took an idea of some THING and created some form of it with their own interpretation. Vague, and slightly rambling, I know. But I don’t know how else to describe it. I’m still figuring it out. And with that, I will leave you with a quote.
Ideas alone can be works of art….All ideas need not be made physical.…A work of art may be understood as a conductor from the artist’s mind to the viewer’s. But it may never reach the viewer, or it may never leave the artist’s mind.
– Sol LeWitt (1928–2007), American artist, “Sentences on Conceptual Art,” in Art and Its Significance, edited by Stephen David Ross (1994)