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Sunday, 14 March 2021


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Kind of related:

Many years ago I was giving a talk about one of my photo portfolios, and during the Q&A, an audience member challenged me to define a fine art photographer. I told him that a fine art photographer is someone who takes pictures intended to hang on walls. Not bad for off the top of my head. Still seems about right.

Great post. I sometimes go off into fantasy land on dog walks. This morning I was imagining myself pitching a crass advertising campaign to a camera company, and since I use Fuji, it was Fuji. So in my head I was thinking, Fuji: Because Life is Beautiful. But life is beautiful, and you don't really need to sell that.

I've experienced art that has: challenged me, inspired me, politicized and humored me. One common thread I've encountered- whenever it calls itself "Fine Art," it bores me to tears.

I can't even define "art" terribly usefully, never mind describe how to recognize it.

I prefer the use of "art" which includes failed attempts, but I also accept accidental art (things created without what I think of as "artistic intent", but which speak to a wide range of people the way successful art does). This confusion also tends (in my head) to confirm my impression we don't really know what we're talking about in art.
And how important is "novelty"?

If a wide range of people over a long time engage energetically with a work (intellectually or emotionally), it's probably some kind of "art". But lots of things that don't meet this test are also; perhaps appealing to a smaller audience (but perhaps making a stronger connection to that smaller audience), or just not being as strong.

"Who's To Say What Is Really Art?"

Me! Me! It's ALL really Art.

What is art? What is quality? Robert Pirsig went mad overthinking these questions. His book, "Zen And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance" attempts an answer. I have read it four times and I still don't know. Don't stop trying.

Alexander McCall Smith is the author of the 44 Scotland Street series of novels about a group of people who live at that address in Edinburgh along with their friends and neighbours. Very funny and occasionally touching books. One of the characters is a classically trained portrait painter named Angus Lordie. Angus has a dog who rears up a hind leg and makes water whenever he hears the words "Turner Prize".

“There is no such thing as art -only artists” - E H Gombrich

I cannot think of a succinct way to answer the question posed by this post, except to remember the sensation of being "out of time"-- lost -- when sitting with my father at the New York City Ballet. My thoughts of the day, the smell of the room, whatever perseveration occupied my mind, fell away as I watched the dancers' forms come together and then apart.

Who is to say what art is? I know of no specific person to whom I would give that authority. But I am certain that what fits in that experience -- of being lost as meaning unfolds -- that is what humans seek. And whether it is tea, or a dance, or a photograph, or a cave painting the people experiencing that sensation imbue the work.

What a lovely thought. Thank you.

My thought on the matter is thus: It is art if the creator of it says it is art.

Conversely, there is such a thing as bad art.


I dunno, I think art "intended to hang on walls" is coming dangerously close to "decorative art", which many (of course not all) "fine art" proponents seem to think is the worst possible thing to create.

(To be clear, I'm pretty sure there's nothing like broad agreement, certainly not among artists, about what art is.)

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