I was having an online discussion about artists trying to make a difference with their work. Some people believe that art should be used to create change. While I agree that is a noble endeavor I don’t think intent plays a role in the influence of art on a viewer.
In my experience a viewer responds to the abilities of the artist, not knowing anything about the artistic intent behind the image. As a matter of fact, most art that carries a message comes up short for most viewers unless of course that work is handled with expertise. The proper handling conveys the experience, not the artist’s beliefs.
Artists are notorious for their human failings. The fact that Caravaggio used his favorite prostitute for a commissioned painting of the Virgin Mary doesn’t keep religious followers from weeping at the powerful depiction. His religious beliefs or lack thereof did not affect the viewer’s enjoyment. This same scenario is played out over and over again throughout art history. The impressionists known for their paintings of bucolic scenes and idle bourgeois life did so at the height of the Franco-Prussian war. Paris was under siege and fell to opposing forces. The war took the life of Frederic Bazille one of the founders of the Impressionist movement.
Art is uncompromisingly democratic in this respect, the work once finished stands on its own merits and is judged by its artistic qualities, not its creator’s personality. While honesty and fidelity to craft are important for the creation of any work of art, the artist’s intent, beyond its successful execution, is not a real consideration.
The public’s response to the work carries the final decision of its success and that can change over the life of the piece as social changes in taste affect the thoughts of the viewers.An artist is better served by learning all about their craft in the creation of work that instills a lasting impression on the audience.
A high degree of expertise in technique has always had, and always will have, a predominate place in art. The subject, in itself, has value only according to the mode of the day. Tomorrow it will be superseded by a new fashion or fad. With the passing of time, the subject loses much of its meaning. But the fine execution of that subject retains its value. ~ Nicholai Fechin
4 thoughts on “Making Art That Matters”
An well-written post, that inspires me to keep working harder, thank you.
Cheryl and I were talking about this tonight concerning the Roger Waters tune "Crystal Clear Brooks" and if he decided that it was nothing more than just showing up. In a way thats the The difference between Waters and Phil Collins.
I think you’re conflating two things that don't go together. The fact that Rogers uses the proceeds from his successful music career for charity work has nothing to to with the music itself other than the music funds his charities. In that way that is my point, it is the successful execution of the art that creates those opportunities. As for Phil Collins work, he is more successful than Waters with a larger net worth of 250 million compared to 145 million for Waters. Collins also supports more charity efforts 17 to Waters 10. So, in reality, his music is doing the same thing on a larger scale whether or not you like it, without ever putting it into the work itself.