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An off-leash park for your brains!!

My previous blog “The meaning of art” touches on another facet of the same thought, though I didn’t really discuss it:
That art is defined by YOU, the artist.
Do you agree?
With this in mind, I will now put forth my thoughts on the matter of Modern art; in defense of the most obnoxious, irritating, my-cat-could-do-that, gallery full of crap you can imagine, and perhaps I can make you understand why I think it is wonderful.

I think Modern art is all about definitions. What is art? That is a question art critics wrangle with, most everyone has a passionate opinion about, but how do we discuss this? Yell at each other? No no, that’s not necessary, because that-there is what modern art DOES! It is an ongoing, fairly calm, non-verbal discussion addressing this question: Art? What the hell are we talking about??

This is my definition of modern art.
And do you realize how much we need definitions, to be comfortable?

I met one of my favorite graphic novelists last Sunday at the Comics convention in Portland. We got into a discussion about how readers really don’t trust themselves,-ourselves- to understand visual narrative without a narrator. After giving her an big argument about it, I realized that Carla Speed Mcneil ( is right, I DON’T fully trust what I see without someone explaining it to me. This must be some survival mechanism we have to be sure we are all on the same page with our tribe or something… anyway, us people do seem to have a lot of difficulty dealing with something that isn’t classified and worked over with a verbal description telling us what is going on.

This often happens to me. I will study a page of a comic book and go “Huh? what just happened??” and flip to the notes in the back to confirm what I thought was going on. An explanation makes me feel safe.
Language is a harness for the world. Makes it easier to grab on to.

That’s why Modern art is scary. A modern art gallery is an off-leash park for brains!

” Ok, lets see…this is a painted, taxidermied male angora goat ( has he been neutered? I wonder.) with a tire around its middle, standing on a collage type painting…” yes indeed. hmmm…

(“Monogram” , by Rauchenburg. Just google it)

Looking at this one in the art museum when I was about six years old… I think I got it. I think I totally got modern art all in one moment. I think it is about HOW we think. I think it is about many different things all at the same time instead of a straightforward, single message. “Monogram”, has so much content going on all at that same time, it defies a linear sentence structure to define it, so it defies language. I think it is about raw input and our thought process to digest it. ( I have no idea what the artist really intended. I am making this all up. Don’t you feel safer now?).

Modern art isn’t about “pretty”, it is an ongoing wordless conversation about what the hell we are, as social, creative, nutcase, sentient creatures on this earth.

It is all about YOU.

Lets all roll in it !

5 thoughts on “An off-leash park for your brains!!

  1. “Art is defined by you, the artist.”

    I think that is true in the act of creation, but art is redefined when the viewer interacts with it. The process is not complete until then… and even then, it still evolves. The meaning can change for the viewer as s/he thinks about it. The art can even change the viewer, in some rare and powerful instances. And the meaning can even change for the artist, as the artist changes (or is changed by their own creations).

    “I DON’T fully trust what I see without someone explaining it to me.” <-- That is certainly true for the picture at the top of this blog post. What ... the ... heck? o.O As for modern art: there is much of it that I do not like, that I do not connect with at all. But that doesn't mean it isn't art; it just means I don't like it. 🙂 Then there are some modern art pieces that touch me in some way, and I don't even know why -- I can't put my finger on what it is about the piece that makes me *feel.* Maybe you're right; it just defies language. As for "public art"... Well, it's certainly public. Some of it is art, perhaps. Some of it is even aesthetically pleasing, and one could find nice things to say about it. But if something is created expressly for the "public," and sanctioned by the Powers That Be, it is likely to be vapid so as not to offend anyone, and so touches no one. Colors and lines do not an art piece make. Art must have a soul, or it is just colors and lines. Just my thoughts. There; you've gone and made me think again! 😉

  2. HA HA! Yes I purposely left off a caption on the cartoon at the top of this blog.
    The cartoon figure is standing in front of a real drawing I did. He is trying to fathom it.
    The drawing is supposed to represent the edge of the boundry between what we can show in public, and what we can’t. There really is nothing “obscene” in the picture behind the guy, but it seems to touch on the boundaries of proprietary.

  3. Yes! We should all roll in it, become slightly disturbed by the odor, bathe… and repeat the process again and again, often without knowing why. That’s the fun part!

  4. what part of being off-leash ISN”T fun?

  5. I had to join in here. I do agree that art is defined by the artist, but not always understood the way the artist intended. I mean, who can sign a urinal and call it art, but an artist?

    There are bajillions of theories about art especially modern art but one of my favorite theorists is John Dewey. What I love about Dewey is the basic idea that art is an experience. Much like what *I think* you are saying, art is an experience for the person creating it, hopefully, and something is being processed there. Similarly when someone is viewing the art hopefully they are also having some sort of experience. What those experiences and communications are depend completely on the person creating and the viewer….the life experiences and the “baggage” brought to the situation. I know that I can look at something, even traditional art, and see something very different than the person next to me and even have an “experience” that is entirely different from that person. Often times it has to do with the application of the material because I want to see and try to feel what that person was feeling when creating it. Kind of like watching someone draw with their eyes closed and trying to reach into their brain and see what they think they are drawing. The intention. (I play too much cranium, that’s actually a category on the game!)

    I have tried modern and abstract art. It helped me though a very difficult situation, a miscarriage that floored me. When I see that painting it can make me very sad, but that doesn’t mean that any person that sees it will see me or what I have gone through, but I still feel like the painting is VERY personal and like me, inside out. This painting also let me completely release what I was going through…it was an experience and not just a painting to me. As silly as that sounds!

    I totally agree that art is you, and *your* art is definitely you. Whether it’s a tiny little animal in your cabinet or something produced by the thousands! Though my favorite art is always the stuff that has actually been touched by the artist, because then you can see the material and the “experience” since I am overusing that word!!! I love fingerprints in clay, and brush strokes in paintings….and lines gone un-erased.

    I think a real challenge would be to go into a gallery and NOT read the artist’s statement. Or titles! I always try to figure the art out first then read, but often I am way, way off! (0:

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