I Want to Art


It's a human thing. The Mona Lisa. David. The Chrysler Building and the Goodyear Blimp. They're all works of art, and someone designed, drafted, and built them.

I want to art.

My wife and I sat down the other night in a crowded room full of trinkets and garbage. We were knee-deep in an event hosted by Austin Creative Reuse letting our subconscious minds direct our hands as we turned the garbage into found art. In writing, we use a similar approach. Found poetry takes words, sentences, or phrases and turns them into poetry. I draw a lot of similarities.

Furiously, I modge-podged bits of plastic, wound pieces of wire, glued down images, and even suspended something in a plastic box! When all was said and done and my fingers were nearly stuck together, I sat back and admired my work.

My uneven, awkward, barely standing, confusing mass of... something. I don't know. I wouldn't call it art. My wife, an actual artist, had produced a three-dimensional collage, all pretty and perfect, just like her, and that's when I hit the realization.

We make art as a reflection of who we are.

Still, I want to art.

I can write, sure, but I'm talking about that substantive collection of atoms arranged in such a way that people stop and stare and wonder if they're staring at a sculpture or their inner-deepest (made up word) universe.

Now, I know I'm not going to be da Vinci, that role has already been taken, but I can slap together something stunning, right?

You see, I started down this road a while back. I hit the stage at 12, performing in my first musical, and I've been playing the sax for nearly 25 years (#holycrapimgettingold, #goodthingishavemyhead-nogreys), and I've finished several kids books and had my poetry published.

But people can't pick that stuff up.

And that's what I want to do next, which got me thinking.

We all have an art. Yes?

For some, it's metallurgy. For others, it might be the ability to carve out the perfect brisket. Doll makers, shoe cobblers, haberdashery, it's all art. And, it's all a part of us. Or is it?

I kept hearing as I was growing up that there are people who are really great at mathematics, and when a certain level of knowledge has been acquired their skills transform magically into art. Or, John Coltrane's experimental jazz phase is just art that no one gets. Melt Banana's conceptual musicality is guaranteed to make people scratch their heads, but in the end they say "it's art."

If art is universal, shouldn't we all agree on what constitutes art? So, then I started thinking that we, a society desperate for needing labels, are using art as an excuse.

Look, any whosit can slap magazine cuttings onto a piece of cardboard, hold it up and say, "I've done it! I've built a culturally relevant, earth-shattering piece of art!" (Note: not the exact words out of my mouth). Is there anything wrong with that?

I say that there is. It's the same issue I have with giving everyone a trophy. Once we start saying that every bit of collage, every welded together pieces of scrap metal, every finger painting, ever album that's nothing but the sound of people in an auditorium is art, we lose sight of what art truly means.

Art is a total and absolute grasp of the medium. Now, I recognize that there are as many artistic tastes as there are people on the planet. That's 7 billion different tastes, but I also believe that we must stop complementing everything that comes from people attempts at art as art. We should be reserving that title for accomplishment.

We should also hold the people we deem as artists responsible for their art. There's a designer here in Austin who's attempts at being avant-garde turn out to be gaudy and just plain weird. Plus, the finished product is anything but finished. However, this designer has a huge following because the community takes a look at it and says "What bravery! Look at those amazing, mind-blowing designs." NO! Sorry, gluing a bit of dead animal to a piece of leather strap doesn't make it cutting-edge. It makes it less work for the vultures.

Artists are allowed to miss the mark, but they need to know that they did.

So, I suppose that's a lot of pressure. I'm driven by some sort of Muspellian fire, without the evil Surtr and such, to built a work of art. And, I suppose a lot of artists feel the same way. I doubt da Vinci took a look at The Mona Lisa and said, "meh, it's... ART! See, I'm accomplished and I know what I'm doing, so all you must bow down to my artistry, and if you don't get it then you're totally uncultured."

Art is refining, and rerefining, and creating something totally unique. And, before you say that that statement is antithetic to the point of the article, remember that we should respect art for its completeness. And, we should be holding it to a much higher standard.

Does the artist put time behind it? Is it something we could never do? Does it speak universally? If answered yes to all three, then we have the beginnings of art.

Let's give art what it's due.

I'm going to go make something now. Maybe.


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