This post is a reply to a very well written response to my earlier blog post, "Who Is An Artist?" My friend Cedric says he is not an artist, while I beg to differ. While I too think the term "artist" is bandied about all too often, especially the term "recording artist", I think the term as such is not well defined in our current culture. It therefore loses a lot of meaning for most people, and ceases to be relevant.
By the same token, I do not agree that proper artists, as such, are an exclusive, gifted class of individuals, separate from uneducated masses or ordinary people. Cedric complimented me that the usual "art" showing up online these days is simply some mobile phone image with a hipster filter slapped on it, and called "art", by someone claiming the title of Artist. He said the images I have done on an iPhone are far more deserving of being called "art".
Thank you Cedric, but in all honesty, I admit that my iPhoneography is hardly more than the act of playing. The image above (Navajo Rose) is one I created on my iPhone of the rose that Rosa had gifted Jem and I. I had stuck it in a small dreamcatcher that I then pinned to our office wall. I happened to one day take enough notice of it to capture it on my phone. I then "played" with various apps to settle on this final image. I had no idea or intention on how it would turn out. I could never repeat the process(s) to do it again, it was simply pure play.
That, I think is the key to true art, and being an artist; The ability to play, free from any outside intent, any idea of even creating art, the way children do that we so often lose as we "grow up". One of the consequences we see today of the sheer explosion of creative tools for masses of people worldwide is, we are exposed to the "learning process" of creating art. All over the world, at any given moment, we are witnessing peoples successes and failures as never before.
Imagine if we could see the all of the bad exposures, terrible compositions, banal subjects badly exposed of every great photographer in history! If we could see their growth from awkward photo geek to Master Photographer, we'd see their process to be oddly like our own. I actually did some very fine images pretty early on in my career, and later have done some atrocious images that were never as "good" or on a par with those earlier works. My work continues to grow and change, as I do, but one of the really powerful aspects to my process now is the re-awakening of simple play (thank you iPhone!)
Cedric is right, in that simply making "art" all about the beautiful is only half of the equation. James Joyce and Joseph Campbell point out that another factor to be considered in great art is the concept of the "sublime". Great expanses of space, experiences of prodigious power can be terrifying and sublime, and hence felt as art.
The line between "madness" and art can be as thin as a hair. The art of Paul Klee, Picasso and Matisse were shown alongside those of patience in mental institutions in an attempt to show the great art of the 20th century was "degenerate" art. I think instead it showed the deep connection the human spirit and psyche has with both the "beautiful" and the "sublime darkness" we all carry.
And yes, Cedric, I do believe wholeheartedly, that if I had come across Rosa's Rose laying in the street, I would see the art in it. That it was enhanced by the experience of meeting her in person, is like anytime we would get to meet an artist at work. I've picked up detritus in the street because it struck me as having something artistic to it.
I'm so glad I had the opportunity to create a work of art from Rosa's Rose, one artist transmuting another's art, as all human art is a transmuting of the great spirits' art!.