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.