The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly in Fine Art
-or soul searching after my "bird poop art"
June 29, 2009 Pygoya
After over 30 years of making art, always with the intent to meet personal as well as institutional standards by instilling quality in my works, I wonder if I am "brainwashed" as an artist. After a lifetime of attempting to abide by standardized aesthetic guidelines of what is considered "good" art, do I possess the ability to break the rules? Is it possible to make "bad" art or will any effort on my part always be unconsciously edited to meet invisible modalities that govern what is acceptable? This lesson on acceptable art was intense while attending art classes and art school. But the awareness of socially acceptable art objects might have started during elementary school when teacher instructed the proper way to make art. For instance how to correctly mix colors using the color wheel, or how a straight line guided by a ruler is better than a crooked one drawn by an unsteady hand.
We artists all following the rules of making art. We all accept how important it is to consider the elements of composition, such as color and shape balance, dark to light values that promote cohesiveness, and the golden rules of classical proportion. "Practice makes perfect," but does it eliminate the freedom to make mistakes that could accidentally lead to new vision?
But is it just tradition that keeps us artists from abandoning attributes in artwork that jurors also search for when judging the quality of works in a show? Maybe not. Maybe art also mirrors our relationship with the physical world. We prefer balance to imbalance, harmony to chaos, a sense of wholeness instead of incompleteness and fragmentation. So possibly we carry over these human preferred states of existing into our art preferences and thereby derive the rules for making, as passed down and upheld by art instructors and other authorities of the art world.
For myself, as artist, embracing the controversial digital art medium as been one way to rebel from traditional art and its rigid demands. However, I am starting to sense just being a digital art is not enough. I still have been obeying the rules of good art conduct. If nothing else, maybe even more so, because I have been attempting to convince others that my digital art is truly "real" fine art. I have been forced to abide by the rules for making "good art" because by meeting these standards - established by traditional work, by comparison and similarity, my digital imagery could pass the art test for viability as "art."
Working recently with the imagery of bird feces has been one way to wake me up to the fact that possibly, what I make, is weakened by tradition. In the attempt to please, have my art accepted, I try to mimic the qualities of traditional art. It felt great to dispel niceties such as flowers and treed landscapes and work with subject matter abhorred as fine arts. Realizing this, I started to wonder in what other ways might I still be shackled to a conditioned aesthetic tradition. Could I be successful in intentionally making works imbalanced, lacking in color and line harmony, in other words, "ugly" to the eye? Or is there now an automatic control, as I work to edit artistic decision during the act of doing, that makes the developing piece "correct" and proper? Is my digital art process less spontaneous and random than I think it is? Do I work on the computer in a hedonistic way, whereby every mouse-command for change to a developing monitor picture must move in the direction of enhancing pleasure (as opposed to displeasure)?
There is a new goal, a new series that is brewing in my mind. Can I, as "developed" artist, still do ugly paintings if I choose to? Or will everything I make always end up "pretty?" I see this as a fresh challenge, to learn if, even as a digital artist, I am still remain a slave to the standards set for the classification of "fine art." Some day will find me attempting to produce unrefined fine art. If I fail in this task, then I shall realize I am not quite the "rebel" artist I thought I am.