What is Art?

In New York City, everyone has an opinion. Ask someone where to get the best slice of pizza and you may have inadvertently started a street debate on it. This is an important subject for New Yorkers.

What is art falls into the same category. Good luck getting much in the way of a universal definition or agreement on this subject. The history of art is filled with comments and scholarly writing on it.

For some, it is their career. They get paid for their opinions on art. They probably have advanced degrees in art history and write columns in the media as well as books.

So they are “art experts” They base their opinions on many different things including their personal tastes, even when they don’t acknowledge that point.

Monochrome Street Photography
Park, New York City, May 2012

But mostly, when art critics write about art they are writing about the state of art, different schools of art, particular artists, etc. Their writing has an understood aspect to it. They don’t often feel the need to explain why something can be considered art.

Maybe it’s really a good thing that there isn’t one gospel definition of what art is. Yes, art is very much subjective. It IS in the eye of the beholder! Your feeling about it is all that really matters when observing a piece.

The fact that there is no single definition means that we also have a wide variety of artistic styles. It is not necessary for a work of art to have only one definition.

We should celebrate that art doesn’t fit neatly into one category. And yes, photography is also art so long as you view that way. I do! Just because someone calls it art doesn’t mean that you have to like it. Do you know of a universal definition of art?

The Act of Writing About Art

I am both a writer and an artist. I struggle with the idea of writing about that which I create. They are two different and mutually exclusive activities.

Writing about what I create would be an attempt to justify or place into a context something which was not created with a preconceived notion. It is looking backwards and attempting to create meaning that didn’t exist at the time. Hence I do not write about my work in any detail about what it means or doesn’t mean.

July, New York City, 2019

At least for me, the creative act is something that just happens. It operates on an intuitive level. I do not create that which I can imagine in a finished state. I wouldn’t know how or why it would be of interest.

It was with great pleasure that I read a quote by Gerhard Richter on the same subject. He said “to talk about painting is not only difficult, but perhaps pointless too. You can only express in words what words are capable of expressing, what language can communicate.”

He also stated at one point that if he could write about painting that there would be no reason to paint. I write about photography and art in general terms and some of the effects that it has on myself and perhaps on society. I write about my experience of it all.

I invite your comments on what you think about these things. Curious Frame was created to engage in dialogue about the state of visual images in the world today.

An Artist Works with What’s Available

Some people will say that there’s nothing new under the sun in the world of art. While my view of the state of art is not so bleak, all art is somehow influenced by what came before. Some more than others.

In the music world it’s called sampling. In the world of art it’s called appropriation. Andy Warhol is perhaps the most famous appropriator in the art world.

When it comes to photography and especially street photography, many moan about the inability to achieve the same kind of classic photos that were produced in the past. Some even go so far as to focus on creating only work that looks like the past.

Winogrand Doubles – Brides, New York City, August 2019

It’s as if they could imitate the past and live in another place and time. Rather sad if you ask me. An artist works with what’s available.

I sample the work of artists and photographers in my work. It’s about creating something new from something from the past. You could say it’s a form of recycling.

In the world of philosophy, all philosophy is a dialogue with the ideas from the past. In my multiple exposures I utilize the works of others to create something new and current. As in the photo above where I sample photos by Garry Winogrand.