Sunday, September 16, 2007

Final Chapter, Kinda

Alright, so here is where I tell you what I've been thinking about lately. This is the part that I'd really like feedback on cause these ideas are new to me and partially unfounded, but here it goes.

So far we have been talking about makes up art, the differences between art and "craft" but we haven't been talking about why we make it, or why we should should. It's good and all to trumpet ideas of communication and really, this is a very important part of the equation, but from a creator's point of view, it still leaves uncertainty as to what direction to take art.

Let's go back to Michelangelo, cause I always seem to go back to him. After seeing the Pieta, I have become obsessed. How is it that he was able to create such amazing art? So I researched him, and all the obvious things came out, early training, innate ability, etc etc. Yet, plenty of people have this sort of innate ability. The idea that he was somehow so amazing in his skill to outstrip every artist since him seems highly unlikely. So, though his skill is undoubtedly an essential ingredient in his ability to make such genre defining art, art that feels alive, not some hunk of stone, there must be some other source for his success.

I believe this was his belief in God; or more specifically, his belief that God was working through him to reveal the sort of ideal beauty that was believed to exist in the past, stemming from the Greeks. What this created in him was a drive, a reason, for seeking perfection. I think this was what made him different, perhaps he was delusional, thinking that God was working through him, but regardless, I think this is the critical element that sets him above so many and so many today seem to also lack.

So I began to think, how can any artist today who is a thinking person be so driven? The environment that Michelangelo lived in is drastically different from today's environment. Personally, I cannot accept the idea that I should be trying to reveal some sort of Arete, or divine perfection or whatever you wanna call it. We know today, whether true or not, that there is no perfect source, no perfect divine order or at least that's our unspoken model. Artists, unlike in the past, are not revealers of the divine. That sort of commandment, to reveal God through your art, would be a real motivating factor for an artist, if they could swallow it. I doubt anyone but the psychotic can swallow that today.

Well, I thought, thats depressing. How can I ever aspire to be the best that I can be if I can't even find something that would motivate me to be that? What is the point? For a long while I didn't know.

Then something happened that helped me pull many different, disparate, things together. Things that I had no idea were connected, turned out to be part of each other. The first element was my dislike of certain art, of which Thomas Kinkade is a poster child for.
Next was what one of my instructors, Billy, and the company he used to work for was always talking about. That is to stay true to your material. Have things fit together naturally, be true to your characters.
Last was animation by Bill Tytla, especially his stuff in Dumbo. This work was very emotionaly strong, it didn't feel forced, it felt natural, real. Allot like the Pieta, exactly like the Pieta. These pieces are real. This is in contrast to some artwork which is fake, and as we all know, I hate anything that feels fake.

Then I stumbled across a word, and I wish I could remember where I read it or how it was phrased because it hinted at a greater meaning than I knew. That word was Kitsch. I would encourage you to look this word up on wikipedia, because it had far more significance in the past than we give credit to it today. This seems good too.

Now, I'm going to try and explain why this is so important, but it's going to be hard, because the idea is so simple, and is a part of everything I've said so far, really it's nothing new, it's just pulling everything together into a framework for judging art, and a reason/drive to create it.

Basically, Kitsch refers to a sort of fake art. Art that is pacifying, overly-sentimental.... It's hard to explain; in short, it's art that is boring. Art isn't boring, it is interesting. More specifically, it should be interesting because it reveals truth. That means it presents the good with the bad, it doesn't take real things and make them into sentimentalities. It creates real creations, not imitations.

Let's try and step back for a moment, because I'm afraid that this isn't clear enough. There are two thing that "artists" create.
Either, Kitsch, or Art.

What Michelangelo was doing, was trying to reveal truth, to create artwork that was real, not just an imitation, but something that was itself. The idea of being a divine instrument was just a model that he used, but he was doing what I am proposing here. In other words, we can do the same thing. This is our way in. To reveal the truth and to create something real is the goal of art.

Kitsch is sort of the polar opposite of this. It's not enlightening, interesting or true. It doesn't show the dark side, and it bastardizes the light into some sort of sanitized, commodified version of truth. Kitsch is all about placating the viewer, just making them feel good, or okay. It plays by the rules, it doesn't try anything new, it doesn't try to push art forward or blaze any paths.

So there it is, I hope the pay off was as revealing as it was to me. Kitsch vs. Art is a model that covers all of art and gives you a model to talk about what you intuitively feel. You know when you see Art, it's alive, it's engaging, it's interesting. You also know when you see kitsch. But without these words, or this framework, it's very hard to be specific about things. It's very hard to really trust what your feeling because you have no framework.

And if you are an artist, as we all are in our own way, then you know what you need to shoot for, your standards have been set. They are not so specific to be constraining, kitsch vs. art is very much open to personal interpretation. Yet, at the same time, it's not so free that you are lost without any direction with nothing to build on. This is what artists and viewers of art need to create, judge and understand art.




Bekah said...

Interesting. It makes sense to me...

But I have a question. How do you tie this into "judging" art by one's own personal experience and what it means for that person? Because some people find that kitsch really resonates with them. I think things like Kinkade are fads, yes, but I think they became that way because someone genuinely felt something real in his paintings.


D Four said...

I feel similar to Rebekah. I feel like using Kitsch and True Art can easily reinstate the whole snootiness about art again that you mentioned before - the caste system if you will. Obviously, as you said it's pretty flexible and up to interpretation, but it still could make those who do genuinely feel something from paintings like Kinkade feel as if their opinions/intuitive feelings are inferior because they aren't knowledgeable enough to see its inferiority.