The Intrinsic Value of Art

The Intrinsic Value of Art


– [Interviewer] Just give
me an art for art’s sake. – Okay. – [Interviewer] Okay, like, why art? – Don’t look at me. – Yeah, tell me, what do you think? – No, you start. (laughing) – Well, I think that, that
part of the conversation is who has always been able
to talk about what art is. Right, like who gets
to decide or define it. Like, a lot of the misinterpretation, or the misunderstanding
about what makes art comes out of like who
has always had the power to decide what art is, right? And then, and what the purpose of art is. And so, one of the
things that I think, um, that artists keep doing, is
sort of like knocking that down. And like, imagining new
ways and new forms of art. And so oftentimes I think,
if we look to the margins, we can see some of the most
beautiful manifestations of art sort of currently being made. – Yeah, well, you know,
I paint and I write. So, the question’s personal to me, but it’s also kind of an
intellectual, historical question, and I would just say this. I think the tragedy of modernity, is that post the
Bloomsbury Group in England that basically criticized
figurative art as old fashioned and said we now have to worship
the post-modern abstraction. That that kind of got
ingrained in what we’re doing to the point where there has been a disassociation of craft and art. And I, I think in one way, that’s great, and that it makes art less bound to rules. But on the other hand, if
you look at why we have art, it’s because people, not to
make it too artsy-fartsy, began to decorate things. And then those decorations
became as important as the utility of the object, and then all of a sudden they said, let’s not decorate a
sword or a spear anymore, let’s just make this– – [Shawna] Art for art’s sake. – Art for art’s sake. (laughing) So, essentially one, one of my battles is is I love conceptual work within art, but I also am a big fan
of hands-on creativity, and not making art an
intellectual exercise. – Right. – That’s cut off from
getting your hands dirty. – Right, exactly. – Yeah, like, yeah.
– Yeah, yeah. – So that basically, I think for me, that’s where there’s a lot of discussion, particularly in our day in age
when so much is conceptual. – Well, and I also think, so a few things you said. First I wanna go all the
way back to the piece where you said that where art came from was wanting to decorate things, because I actually think it’s born out of an even deeper place. Um, that as human beings, we um, are hungry to make beauty. – Right, right, I agree – And so I think visual
art is one manifestation, just like sound, sometimes beautiful, sometimes like sorrowful. Like, all of, all of that maker energy comes from a really deep desire to engage the beauty that
we experience in the world, or that we see in one another. And so, I think that’s for me one of the starting places for art, and that’s a piece that I think folks are disconnected from sometimes. And so, for me, art for art’s sake is, the answer is like where do
we tap in to that hunger. Where do we help people open up to that, or recognize that, or take a deep breath and realize that it’s in them. And so one way to do that
is to make art accessible. – Yeah, and I, I think actually though, what you’re, what you’re saying, and the way I would put it
and completely agree with you, is that the basic value of
art reflects a bigger issue. And that is what I would call
the intrinsic worth of beauty. You know, I grew in an
Evangelical background where everything had to be justified by something else. So marriage wasn’t just marriage, it was a picture of Christ in the Church. Sex wasn’t just sex, it was, you know, a bond that would make a
sacred marriage stick together. Art wasn’t just art, it had
to have a gospel message, so you got all this horrible
Christian rock and roll in the 70s and 80s
(Shawna laughing) where they’re trying to put messages in to get people saved,
rather than making good music. But I think a lot of the, I think a lot of the post-70s art movement actually does the same thing, and that is, it always looks for a higher meaning when the art is the higher meaning, because it’s that hunger
you’re talking about. And the way, just to repeat myself, the intrinsic worth of beauty is the deal. So either beauty has intrinsic
worth, or it doesn’t. And it’s interesting you have tattoos. Not to change the subject, just
hold them up for the camera. I’m speaking of these. If you’ve never seen a tattoo before, it’s a form of body
painting, but it’s permanent. – Mm. – The first decorative
arts that are recorded in history, in anthropology,
is not on caves, it’s body, it’s body art. – [Shawna] Right, it’s true, yeah. – Yeah, so, what I
would say is two things, the intrinsic worth of beauty, and the non-utility of it. – Yes.
– Because what does this do for you?
– There’s no reason, right. – It doesn’t get you to Heaven, it doesn’t make you rich,
and it won’t feed you. But they were doing this
before they could talk. – [Shawna] Yeah, yeah, yeah. – Interesting point. – I think that’s true, yeah. – Yeah, intrinsic worth of beauty. – Yeah, so, sometimes as an artist, I find myself talking about both, I’ll say, like trying to think sort of through some of these questions. So, when I think about, as a fine artist, here’re some of my priorities, or goals, or what I’m trying to create. And I’m thinking about it from a, from a, like the aesthetics of it, and the theory behind it. Or I have an idea that I wanna convey, and I sort of rely on
my fine arts training to try to achieve that. And I think that is really, the folks who, who work
and wrestle in that craft and build sort of their capacity for both appreciation and creation of art is an important element. Just thinking about sort of
what you were saying earlier about intellectualizing, but
also that accessibility piece. But I, sometimes I think that, for me I just need to ask
the questions of like, well, what’s it for, for this
particular moment, right? So, tonight at Wild Goose,
during J. Quest’s performance, we’re gonna do some action painting. And we’re gonna invite
anybody in the audience who wants to come participate. And that’s about, like the experiential, accessing the creative process, the invitational piece, the
getting your hands dirty piece. And so I think it’s a both, and. I think it– – Yeah, and by the way,
just to break in again. The same thing I talked
about your tattoos. That ritual experience of art is probably what was going on in those caves in the south of France 50,000 years ago. – Right, yeah. – Where you see all those hand prints. I don’t see one guy going like this. (laughing) I see somebody like me with
his five grandchildren, and they’re going like this. – Just like, yeah. – Let’s just do this, and
maybe somebody’s beating on hollow log, maybe they’re
celebrating whatever. – Right, maybe they’re rapping. – Maybe they’re rapping. Maybe they’re, you know, their
own version of Wild Goose, but it was definitely, so I’m not saying because
artists related to craft in this intrinsic worth of beauty, it’s therefore not communal. But I’m just saying I don’t
like to see the link broken between that hands-on connection and simply becoming
intellectualized concept. You know, to sort of change the subject, I, as someone who paints and writes, I resent the intellectual
kidnapping of art, by what I call the university crowd. I hate that it’s a subject at places like Columbia University. The artists I liked best in history didn’t go to Columbia, they didn’t do any, they didn’t study drama at Yale. They wrote, they painted, they did, they perfected their craft, but in the context of other artists. Not taught as an academic subject. – Right, yeah, no, I agree. – It’s just a, you know, just, point. – And I would agree about that
in a variety of disciplines. – Yeah, the essential reaction to artist is sort of the wow factor, not, does this advance the
cause of the LGBTQ community, or get people to believe in Jesus, or make people conscious
of the persecution of the black minority. Those are all worth addressing. But what’s also worth addressing
is, wow, that’s beautiful. Because otherwise, what’s the
point of all that other stuff? If it’s not toward a destination
that’s bigger than that, then what’s the context in which we fight for these other things? And so I think we give away the, the argument as it were
by making everything as small as our politics
and our sin and our evil. Once in a while, you’ve gotta say, yeah, but just look at this. Look at what they’re doing. Or the joy of, say the
communal expression you’re gonna do here at Wild Goose. I mean, the point of
it is the making of it, it isn’t so much that
someone’s sitting there saying, wow, you know I’ve really changed my mind on race relations now. It’s more, is this what
it is to be a human being, I feel it more deeply. – Right, exactly, I feel it more deeply, yeah.
– Which is why we care about those other issues. – Right. – But it can’t all just be the meat and potatoes of politics. – Right, right. – That’s my view.
– Yeah. – Great ending statement.
– There we are. – Thank you.
– Cool. – I think we’re done.
– Good. – Did you enjoy that?
– I did!

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