Every first Thursday of the month, Portland opens its art galleries for visitors to look and have wine/cheese. It becomes a big walking fest between galleries, shops, and usually ends with people eating at the nicer restaurants in the Perl district.
I went last night and it was a beautiful weather – lots of people walking around and talking. I especially like the little independent booth shops on a section of blocks they close off for artists who just plop down and start playing music or selling stuff they have made. I find the street displays the most interesting and they are run by students, local folks, or just dabblers who make all kinds of creations. One of the interesting things to observe is the pretentious some of these art shows (and those that attend them) can become.
It’s amazing to me how almost laughably dressed and self-important some of the visitors and artists become. While I’m no pro, my hobby has been in photography and I have sold some of my work before so I went in to see a photo show but it left me extremely unimpressed. If I had given a child a camera for 5 minutes and let them run around underexposing/blurring/overexposing stuff I would have gotten the same outcome. While I have seen good modern photography that is really cool, when I think of masterful work I think of someone who has so mastered the techniques and principles of their medium (techniques and properties of their paint, photo process, musical technique, etc) that they have transcend just getting images down on a merely functional level (simply being able to portray something).
Masterful artisans have so integrated the techniques of their medium that they are beyond the functional and can manipulate the emotional responses that those functional elements can create. The artist can create a deep feeling or truth about reality/the human condition/truth of life/love/etc. But when you have something that looks on all levels like it failed at even the functional level (ie. looks like they didn’t even know how to use a camera) it is really hard for me to get over that to the transcendent level of communication. I need to see in the work that the person has a mastery of the functional process before I can believe their violation of those principles was intentional or just putting on the facade of great talent (i.e. can they even take really beautiful photos of ‘normal’ stuff?).
I have seen work and artists that can pull me into that transcendent experience; but it happens so much less often with works that are focused on form alone as the communicative element. I hate sounding like an old fogie, but man, some classical works can, and still do, bring tears to my eyes. It’s been a long time since I’ve had form-based art do that for me.
Yet, there is a lot of joy in walking around with those that try and are learning to hone those skills – I for one greatly enjoy the creative and imaginative hearts they have. I’ll certainly keep going and learning from these creative souls; it’s just that it is so silly when one thinks they are much better at what the do than they really are. A healthy humility goes a long way in keeping us striving and yearning for bettering ourselves and our work whether it be art or our lives of loving others.