Arguing For Art

Vertical-Horizontal Compostion 1916  by Sophie Taeuber-Arp
“Vertical-Horizontal Composition” 1916 by Sophie Taeuber-Arp

Ever since I became interested in art, I’ve been arguing for art.    There’s lots of skepticism and mistrust when it comes to art and the intent of the the artist. I’ve argued with many people defending all kinds of art and artists, but mostly I’ve argued with myself.

There are so many ideas to argue when it comes to art.  Is it art?  Is it good art?  Should art be personal?  Can art be too personal? What about when someone other than the artist fabricates the art?  Are the Decorative Arts art? What about the ideas of  high and low art?  If something is functional does that mean it’s not art?  Is a quilt art? Can a potholder be art?

I just read an article by art critic Peter Schjeldahl about the exhibit at MOMA  Inventing Abstaction, 1910-1925: How a Radical Idea Changed Modern Art.   He writes that the Taeuber-Arp  needlepoint tapestry  Vertical-Horizontal Composition  is the most moving piece in the show.  And the he questions why this should be.  Why should colored squares and rectangles evoke such emotion.  He writes about how abstract artists have been intellectually defending their work since they first started making it in the early 1900’s.  They developed elaborate arguments, mathematical formulas, and incomprehensible (to most of us) philosophies that argue for the validity of their art.  And all this is fine, it’s the nature of the art world.  But what does all that have to do with how he feels when he looks at Taeuber-Arps tapestry.   He writes “The proof of any art’s lasting value is a comprehensive emotional necessity:  it’s something that a person needed to do and which awakens and satisfies corresponding needs in us.”

“That’s it”, I thought when I read this.  That’s what good art does.  It comes from a need in the artist to create it and it connects to that need in the viewer.   And there is no argument. I don’t have to defend or argue my art to myself or anyone else. I just have to be authentic and make art that comes from that truth. I believe it’s when we are  being authentic that we can connect to other people.  So there is no argument.

And the wonderful thing is this doesn’t just apply to art. I can take it into different areas of my life. I don’t have to argue the way I feel about something, or how something makes me feel or my beliefs or ideas.   Actually, I believe defensive arguing closes us off to new ideas and without it, I can be sincerely curious and open minded.  I can be more authentic and so can my art.


33 thoughts on “Arguing For Art

  1. Thank you Maria, for this essay. It says exactly what I needed to see in words. When something connects with the viewer that one creates, it is art. However primitive, however sophisticated. Thank you.

  2. Interesting post Maria ~ I never consciously thought about the connection between the artist and the receiver of the art, but it’s true. Sometimes at the sidewalk art show in Maine that I attended with my sister I would see a painting that I kept going back to. I could never afford these original works, but was often told that when piece drew you back it was meant for you. I would try to figure out what it was that drew me in and then would look for the same elements in other artists’ works. But it was always one piece that spoke to me. Your quilts and potholders do the same whether they have words or not. Someone is always touched by something they see in the pieces. They are infused with creativity and there is no question that they are art!

  3. Happy Birthday Maria,
    You are reaching the dawning of your Age of Aquarius one piece of art at a time. I heard the song by the Fifth Dimension today before I read your post and thought the following lyrics apply to you:
    harmony and understanding
    sympathy and trust abounding
    no more falsehoods or derisions
    golden loving dreams of visions
    mystic crystal revelation
    and the mind’s true liberation
    Have a very special year! Cheers!

    1. Marilyn, I’m singing it as I’m reading it. I remember hearing that song on the radio when I was a kid and always felt special like it was about me. Thanks for the reminder

  4. Yep, that is it. Your authenticity lit up a part of my brain that I guess had been previously dark. I am drawn to your art again and again. I use dumb adjectives, like “it’s great” or it’s special ” because I can’t really describe how it touches me , and that I think is the beauty of your work Maria, it touches something deep, where words can’t go.

  5. Happy Birthday!
    Read Mr. Jon’s entry for today and I copied something he wrote about you:
    “She spins straw into gold every day of her life, and in my own body and soul”
    So beautifully said about such a beautiful person. Have a great day!

  6. Fist, may I wish you a happy birthday, Jan. 28th, Maria, and secondly, may I say that your comments/arguments with yourself over modern art have resonated with me. I entered art college at the age of 43; as a quiltmaker, still a quiltmaker, always a quiltmaker. Therefore, my medium was set; my visual and emotional monitor was set in the decorative and primitive arts. Thus, when I signed myself up for a course in Modern Art with a teacher with whom I’d studied before, I told her that I did not like Modern Art, would not like it even after taking her course. And, of course, I ate my words by the end of the first semester. Not having understood it before, I did not understand it then but many pieces spoke to me somehow. Jean Paul Riopelle’s work, which I later saw firsthand in Ottawa, in the National Art Gallery, was astounding. Paint layered upon paint, thrown onto the canvas higgledy-piggledy, I said to myself, I could stand back and throw paint on a canvas and produce a work such as this. But, I couldn’t. Somehow, the layers of paint spoke to me, the artist gave his painting such depth as I could never have achieved.

    The Arp tapestry above is visually well-balanced, aside from the colours which all work well together, it is a very balanced composition and the eye is attracted to balance…in fact, our minds, our bodies are attracted to balance and this is what I sense in the Arp tapestry. It is pleasing to the eye and mind.

    You are right, art or design is about visual communication. What elevates a work of art, a design, a quilt, your pot-holders, your quilts, is when they speak visually and emotionally to another…when the viewer can feel and pick up the intention of the artist or designer in creating the work in the first place. The cliche that art is in the eye of the beholder is frankly true yet there are basic tenets that apply to any of the visual arts and when these are present along with the emotion that delivers it, we have a pleasing work of art or design. You’ve brought up a subject that is close to my heart for I’ve felt as you do and have come to a simlar conclusion.

    And just being home with your dogs, Jon, sheep, donkeys, in the country, working in your studio, what more could you ask for on your birthday.
    SandyP in Canada

  7. Happy happy birthday Maria!

    What a beautiful loving tribute to you in Jon’s post this morning. You are both truly blessed to have each other.

    Love From Fran

  8. “Satisfies corresponding needs in us.” A great quote. When I would take my students to a gallery (at the High School Level) they found it difficult to appreciate things they could not relate to…had to be realistic and no way could they identify with the abstract. As they became older and more experienced, they were more able to appreciate the non-traditional pieces. The turning point for me came when I was in college and had to take “Color and Design.” My current students (who are all retired adults) are not at all comfortable trying to do something that is abstract.

    The quilt you are making below (from the clothing) is sensational. Your sense of color, design and composition is off the charts and seems to flow out of you easily.

    Today, I wish you a Very Happy Birthday! Life is good at Bedlam Farm.

  9. Happy birthday, Maria! Your art speaks directly to my heart. My heart knows what connects with it and doesn’t think to argue.

  10. Maria, I think you hit the nail on the head with the word “authenticity” – I once heard a violinist play for an encore, the meditation from the opera Thais. (Anne Akiko Meyers) – I could barely keep from crying as I sat in the audience spellbound by the way she played, pouring out her heart. It connected to me at my deepest level. I’ve heard the piece countless times by other performers, but that incredibly magical connection that night has stayed with me ever since. I tried to find her playing this on youtube, but no luck. However, you can’t do much better than the amazing Yo Yo Ma, so I’ll include the Meditation here along with my best wishes for a most happy birhtday!

  11. I just found this while listening to the Thais. I know Jon recently read the book on Steve Jobs – might be of interest. “When Jobs was ill, Yo Yo Ma came to visit, bringing his 1733 Stradivarius cello and performing a concert in the Jobs’ living room. Jobs, who had been moved to tears by the music, told him, “Your playing is the best argument I’ve ever heard for the existence of God, because I don’t really believe a human alone can do this.” He made Ma promise to play at his funeral.” Mr. Ma was a friend of Steve Jobs, who was also an atheistic Zen Buddhist 🙂

  12. Maria, First of all Happy Birthday! Have many great days of celebrating your life!

    Also thank you for posting this quote,”“The proof of any art’s lasting value is a comprehensive emotional necessity: it’s something that a person needed to do and which awakens and satisfies corresponding needs in us.” It is something I have always felt about myself, but thought I was being selfish? That must be why many create their art in times of pain, sorrow as well as joy.

  13. Wow, this is an “aaah hah” moment. I love this thought. You are right that this can apply to more than art. Thank you for writing about this idea. Happy Birthday!

  14. So much to think about in this post, Maria. I love these lines:
    “:I don’t have to defend or argue my art to myself or anyone else. I just have to be authentic and make art that comes from that truth.” It speaks to the joy I sense in you whenever you share your creative process. And, Happy Birthday!

  15. Happy Birthday Maria!I love what you said about being sincerely curious and open minded, a good way to live and make art!

  16. Happy Birthday Maria!
    Art is a little peice of your heart and soul expressing itself and it doesnt matter if anyone has the eyes to see it but you.
    I beleive that creating and animals are the two places we can be close to god in some way, and we all need that.
    I hope you have a lovley day and enjoy your art all you want! Cheers!

  17. What a beautiful post, Maria. I’ve been working on this “philosophy” in my personal life. My feelings are neither right or wrong. They just “are”. Also, I love cooking, mainly baking. And I’ve allowed myself to see it as art exactly because of what you wrote. I express myself through it and people react positively. It is a very satisfying release of positive energy for me.
    Happy Birthday, by the way.

  18. The cat’s out of the bag
    Or maybe the shed
    The donkeys are braying
    I heard what they said.
    “This day is Maria’s”
    The dogs chimed in too
    Chickens clucked in saying
    Happy birthday to you!!

    Enjoy this day surrounded by all the love sent near and far.

  19. Happy Birthday! (you share it with my twin sons….20 years ago, on your birthday, I was birthing twin boys, a difficult and joyous day!)
    I received my package of your art, quilted and heart stiched potholders. Thank you, I consider them art, unique work that decorates my home. God bless you.

  20. Hey Maria, You are authentic and open minded. Your sense of curiosity is one of your charms.
    You are a true artisian. You create pieces that touch our emotions and we return back to them again and again. I am scrolling back to your totem of Rocky each time I open your blog. It has touched something in me that I need to feel when I look at it. I feel such a connection. Maria, as Veronica said, that is art.

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