Society - particularly American society - loves to demonize or to “other” art and artists.
We deride people who create:
“Oh, you’re an artist? You’re one of those.”
“Oh, you’re a writer? I wish I could sit at home all day.”
“Oh, you’re an actor? You must love starving.”
These are of course specific examples using common ideas and tropes, but these kinds of reactions are common and probably sound familiar to you.
We tell people who want to go into the arts:
“Why would you to throw your life away?”
“But you have so much potential!”
“But there’s no money in the arts!”
Being a creator is clearly seen as being *less than,* but why? Less than what? Why would we consider becoming an artist or writer or performer or designer a path that is throwing your life away or not using your skills and talents?
But this type of thinking and behavior not only can be unlearned, but it needs to be unlearned. Art and the products of creation are everywhere, but we’ve been conditioned to have a blind spot for most of it, and what we do see we are told to feel contempt for. Let’s just see how pervasive art is, shall we?
Let’s begin with the category that most people think of as “art.”
When you say “Visual Art,” the first thing people think of is the type of painting or photography that one might hang on the wall in a home or a place of business. Or perhaps they picture “stodgy old art” that isn’t their taste, like what hangs in museums.
Okay, then let’s start here. Why was this art created? Was it to fulfill the whimsical desires of the artist? Was it an experiment? Or an off-the-cuff creation?
Visual art is meant to have purpose - it’s functional. What is that function? To provide a pleasing visual aesthetic for the person purchasing the art. It’s possible the art was even commissioned originally, meaning that its sole purpose in existing is to be seen and provide visual pleasure for someone. Is this not a worthy function?
And we - as capitalist consumers - hang art everywhere. We buy photographs and prints, paintings and drawings, we frame puzzles, we order canvases, we find indie art shops, we (for better or worse) purchase “Ikea art” - and all for the purpose of enriching the visual elements of our lives.
We adore this art - so why would we deride the people who created what we love?
And Visual Art is not just the things I’ve mentioned above. It’s a gigantic category covering things that we see around us everywhere, all day every day. Here are just a few examples:
Advertisements - Posters, online ads, business cards, etc.
Logos - For businesses, for individuals, for podcasts, for the app on your phone, etc.
Cards/Invitations/Mailings - Wedding invites, birthday cards, charity solicitation mailings, theater season announcements, etc.
Design - Book covers, the shape of a Febreeze bottle, the pattern on your tissue box, etc.
Theatrical - Set, lighting, costumes, direction, performance, etc.
I could go on and on. Everywhere you look is something that someone has put time, thought, and design into. That is art. And we use this art. So why deride the artist?
First thing people think of? Songwriters.
Not composers, of course, but songwriters. People whose music we hear on the radio. People who create sound and music for the purpose of money and fame. People we worship, people we hate, people who are publicly visible, people who acquire awards, people who fill our ears through radio and streaming and headphones and coffee shop speakers.
Do some of these people make money? Yes - though not nearly as many of them as you think.
Do we love these musicians and often make idols out of them? Yes - some of them at least.
“So that’s not derision, this a a category where we celebrate art!”
But all Auditory Art? And all artists?
You may know the singer-songwriter of that song you love, but do you know the name of the person or company that produced it? How about the sound engineer? The person who mixed it? Or who edited it? Or who created the underlying beat track for the radio version?
There are far more creators on any one radio song than we ever think about.
And where else is sound created other than for the radio?
And what about other types of sound design?
Whether or not you think about it, the lack of sound (or even silence) in a space has been purposefully created for you. Someone said “I don’t want there to be too much sound in this space” and a creator made that happen.
There are also publicly available sounds, tracks, and effects that have been created for users of programs and apps like Musical Notation Software, Recording Software, Sleep Therapy Software, etc.
Someone made everything you hear that isn’t a natural sound. And we use these sounds to create an atmosphere - a pleasing environment.
We love Auditory Art. So shouldn’t we love the artists?
People come to New York City and buy pictures and renderings of the skyline.
‘Cause it’s beautiful. It’s been designed to be beautiful.
Functional Art is a broad category that covers the pleasing artistic aesthetic of things that also serve a functional purpose in our lives - well, other than the function of being artistically pleasing.
Here’s a smattering of what could fit in this category, just from an architectural and mechanical point of view:
Interior Design - This goes for office space, retail space, and residential space.
Everything has been designed, whether or not you’ve noticed.
And plenty of other types of everyday objects are also included in this category:
Clothing - I’d say this is a pretty big one, especially considering diversity and range.
Scent Products - Candles, plug-ins, incense, etc.
Small Machinery - Printers, copiers, etc.
Sometimes people argue that - for things such as scent - it is scientists who find these elements and put them together to create pleasing aromas. Or engineers who created the machinery that makes the engine of a car work properly.
Yes. And we wouldn’t dare label these creators as “artists,” would we? The products are far too functional to be given that lowly title, right?
We love Functional Art. We use it. We need it. So we should love the artists as well.
We rely on technology all day every day. We carry small computers in our pockets. We use larger computers for work and for pleasure.
And someone created that. Both the insides and the outsides.
Technology is something that was created for the purpose of being functional, but that the public also demands to be constantly aesthetically pleasing. And everything that has to do with technology was imagined and created by people.
Electricity Reliant Objects
Lighting -Of all varieties.
And a billion other things. And if you notice, much of this crosses over with Functional Art. These days it’s very difficult to create something useful that doesn’t rely on technology in one way or another.
The people who created all of this are artists. Why deride them?
Now, more than most times, humans are all about experiences.
We search out activities, places, and recreations that will provide us with pleasant environments and experiences worth remembering or revisiting.
And…you guessed it…artists created it all. Top to bottom, left to right, forward to back, and in a thousand other ways we didn’t even know existed.
Some of these include:
Theme Parks - Disney anyone?
Sport Stadium Interiors - You can go to a Mets game just for the experiences at CitiField!
Rock Climbing Walls
Anything that you go to, or bring to yourself, in order to engage in an experience can be considered Experiential Art.
We fill our lives with this stuff. We discuss it all regularly. We create cultural norms and build conversations around this art. We argue about episodes. We share our favorite meals.
It’s all art. So why deride the artists?
Art is not a high concept that can be boxed into a corner. Art is not created in a vacuum. Art is not purely aesthetic. Art is not something only the wealthy experience.
Art has function. Art has meaning. Art enriches lives. Art allows us to live. Art helps us survive.
Art is all around us and we use it every day. And we love it - we don’t put it down or tell it to go away. We don’t call the art around us a waste of time, or life, or potential.
So why deride the artist?