I have taken to wearing ear plugs when i visit art museums and galleries. I want to be able to completely immerse myself in whatever work i'm looking at without any extraneous distractions.
The thought occurred to me that i might be missing out on other art patrons' shrewd insights by blocking out all sound with my ear plugs. So i removed them for a while and listened to the observations being made around me. Some of the things i heard were interesting and enabled me to view certain pieces of Art in a new way. There are however, 3 particular comments that seemed to be repeated by a large number of people when viewing modern Art, that i would actually like to address.
#1. "I hate abstract art. It's just a hodge-podge of paint on a canvas."
I think the term "abstract art" is often misused. In order to create abstract art you must take something that already exists and abstract it (change it). Art that is not based on representing anything concrete should be referred to as nonrepresentational art. I mention this because i'm trying to clarify the vocabulary of Art.
Art is a language and if we do not speak a language it often subjectively sounds like noise to us.
I was sitting in a restaurant a few years ago with someone i hadn't known for very long. The people seated next to us were conversing in Spanish. My acquaintance muttered under his breath that this was America and that they should speak English. He called Spanish "annoying chatter".
First, i wonder how many sailors on the Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria spoke English?
Secondly, and more importantly, declaring an entire language to be "chatter" is completely absurd (not to mention incredibly racist).
If my acquaintance took a little time and learned to speak some Spanish, he might discover that it's a beautiful language that contains descriptive terms and nuances that are not found in English. But it's easier to just subjectively declare something to be chatter and make uninformed and ignorant comments.
Art is as complex and beautiful a language as any of the spoken variety used by human beings. It is well worth the time to study and become fluent in it.
#2. "I could do that."
I very sincerely doubt it.
I used to like to watch gymnastics. The athletes on the rings, balance beam, bars and floor were so talented and skilled that they made their performances look effortless.
I thought it looked pretty easy, so i tried it myself. Utter disaster....my right shoulder still hurts when it rains...
Some Art looks deceptively simple, but is in reality hugely complex and extremely difficult to create.
#3. "How much is it worth?"
What is it about our culture that compels us to place a monetary value on everything? I personally think that putting a price on a great piece of Art is like trying to stick a price tag on a sunset.
We human beings like to "have" things. This rampant desire to own things is utterly ridiculous if you think about it.
I was driving with a friend in a remote area of southern Colorado a couple of years ago. I gazed out the window and noticed every square foot of land that we passed by had some kind of fence around it. The absurdity of this way of thinking hit me when i saw a small mountain in the middle of a vast expanse that someone had fenced off. Someone actually felt they owned a mountain!
The human lifespan is usually 90 years or less. Maybe a hundred if you're extremely lucky. A mountain's lifespan is usually millions, if not billions of years, more or less. To think that you could own something like a mountain or even a small piece of land of that matter, is ludicrous. You are at best, borrowing it for a very short time. (Do everyone a favor and take good care of it, please.)
A great piece of Art is truly and actually, priceless. While living artists do have to eat, great Art belongs to, and should be accessible to, everyone. The joy it can bring and the lessons it teaches are far above any petty monetary value.
I hope by addressing some of these misconceptions concerning the nature of Art i can help keep some of the noise down at the next exhibition.