UntitledAcrylic and oil pastel on 8" x 10" canvas board
Today was a play day with paint. I wasn't feeling any powerful emotions or ideas that I wanted to convey, I just wanted to play around with fun shapes and colors that I love. I guess people could say these works would be considered "decorative" because the point of the paintings is simply to be pleasurable and/or interesting to look at. I feel okay about that. I don't think all art has to "say something" to be considered real art.
When I was in college, I was just a few credits shy of being a Women's Studies double major, and one of the higher level courses I took was about the art of quiltmaking. It was the coolest class - co-taught by a Women's Studies professor, and an English professor. The course could be counted as credits towards English, Art History, or Women's Studies (maybe one more thrown in there too!), so there was an interesting mix of students from multiple disciplines. I was so inspired by that class and all that I learned about the history of quiltmaking, quilt patterns, and contemporary fiber artists. One of the most interesting conversations we had was about how we think about this artform, and how it stacks up against the world of "high art". Those debates about high art vs. more folk artforms made such an impression on me, because as a woman, I could imagine myself being in another lifetime when my creativity would not have been encouraged or supported. No art school, no paintings with my name on them in art exhibits, just the expectation of being a wife, mother and homemaker. I know if I was me then, I would have taken advantage of any creative medium I was allowed.
The woman who wove a beautiful blanket, with the colors of the rainbow, is that not art? The woman who sewed a crazy quilt of scraps, is that not art? The woman who painted native patterns on her pottery vessels, is that not art? For some people, no. For me, absolutely.
That being said, I think my respect and appreciation for ALL creative expressions (not just "high art") leads me to a unique perspective about what art is. I have found that many artists have strict rules and expectations about what makes an artist, and what makes something "real" art. I don't think painting or drawing patterns is frivolous, it connects with patterns and designs our ancestors have used for ages. I visited Newgrange in Ireland, and there are great spirals etched into the rocks that surround the holy spot. Were those designs simply decorative?
Now I'm thinking about Kandinsky (yes, I write like my brain works - jumping all over the place!) and his book on color and shape theory. He wrote that we associate certain colors with certain shapes - for example, cool tones with circles, and warm tones with triangles. He got into how when the artist messes with the expectations we have in these relationships, a more interesting painting is created.... I miss that book, where did it go? I think I loaned/lost it about five years ago. I'd love to read it again....
I guess I just connect to these alternative ways of thinking about creating and purpose in art, because I don't like the feeling like I have to say something specific to create valid art. It's because I'm not a person that has rock solid feelings about anything particular, except the obvious like "war is bad", "love is good". It doesn't mean I don't think about things. I do, ALL THE TIME. I have strong feelings about politics, people, the state of the world, but I don't feel drawn to put all of them on canvas. I do feel drawn to create beauty, and I feel like I'm in a long line of creators with similar pursuits, that come from all over the spectrum. So Kandinsky, grandma, that anonymous quiltmaker, and Newgrange etcher are all there with me. HIGH artists? I say, just ARTISTS.