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Evelyn McCorristin Peters: What is Art!

Evelyn McCorristin Peters

Fine art for everyone


What is Art!

I've recently had several experiences and conservations that have  challenged both my communication skills and vocabulary when asked the question "what is art?" As an artist I believe I have a definition in my mind that is primarily visual and therefore I have a hard time vocalizing it. Even when asked to define my color strategy I struggle with finding the right words that will enable others to see as I do. I don't necessarily want them to subscribe to my definitions, but I do want them to understand what I'm saying.

Each week I receive a newsletter/email from artist Robert Genn on various subjects. This week Mr. Genn attempts to answer "What is Art?" I found it an insightful response that challenges us to continue to articulate what art means to each individual.

What is art?
November 10, 2009

Dear Evelyn,
This morning, Sharon Cory of Winnipeg, Manitoba, wrote, "A woman came into my gallery today, looked around for a bit and asked, 'What is art?'
It was so direct I was stumped. I rambled on for a bit, talking about my favourite artists, art movements, styles, etc, but it sounded vague even to my ears. She had almost no information. I realize there's a lot of art being produced right now. How much of it will in the long run be seen as art and who decides it is and is the question even relevant?"

Thanks, Sharon. This is one of those questions like "What is life?" and "Which one is God?" To add to the difficulty, I'm one of those goofers who thinks art is in just about everything. The bewildered lady needs some non-verbal help.

While a few of us are into performance art, art happenings and entertainment art, most of the folks who read my letters are into "product art." That is, they make objects for their own satisfaction or for others to take home and treasure. Satisfying human tendencies like hand-working, collecting and decorating, such art often requires specific skills and some nobility of thought.

While a large part of the population doesn't know anything about art and doesn't care, mild conversions can occur in those who are gently pressed to focus. As far as our own production and exhibition choices are concerned, all we can do is try to grow and stay true to our vision.

That being said, there's a common attitude among product artists that nothing much is to be gained by stuff that doesn't get sold. This is unfortunate because the instinct for imaginative play figures highly in the joy of art-making as well as the opinion-building process. I suggest you call the lady back and in an offhand way show her a short video of Bob Gregson. We've put it up at the top of the current clickback. It gives the subtle lesson that art can be interactive, young and old can participate, and everyone has something to gain.

The lady might be further confused when she sees that video, but she will see people enjoying art who are less uptight than she is. She might begin to see with her eyes rather than with the expectations of her ears. She just might start to think for herself. She may even look around your gallery and find some answers.

Best regards,

PS: "Art is more interesting when you look at it." (Ruth Franklin)



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