“What Kind Of Art Do You Do?”
When people learn that I am a visual artist this is the question that invariably comes next. “What kind of art do you do?” Even though I have been asked this question countless times I am always surprised to find how ill prepared I am to answer. My paintings are unique, colorful, textural, linear, and deal with themes of human dignity. They are, however, paintings. Pictures.
Remember the equation?
1 picture = 1000 words
I paint lots of pictures. So the equation becomes:
(Lots of) pictures = (lots of 1000’s of) words
Most people’s eyes glaze over when I set about solving that equation for them.
You have to see my paintings to know what kind of work I do.
I can however, describe a certain aesthetic to which I subscribe. An aesthetic is a set of underlying principles that guide the work of an artist or a group of artists. Aesthetics is a philosophy that is concerned with beauty and taste and art and how they are defined and appreciated in culture and across cultures. Our word aesthetics comes from Greek words that have to do with sense and perception. Theorists and aestheticians like to talk about things like sublimity and sublimation, intentionality and linguistic phenomenality. I like what Oscar Wilde said about aesthetics being, “the search after the meaning of life.” I like the idea that true artists are searching in their work after the meaning of life. There are many people making beautiful and well-crafted, even ‘artistic’, creations. This is craft. Art is different. Art is striving, and art is the visual record and embodiment of the Search for the Meaning of Life!
So an artist’s aesthetic describes the search and how it is worked out in the details of the art. It is more than a personal style. It includes an artist’s way of working, his or her goals and statements of intent, the use of materials, the thematic choices and presentation. All of this is in the context of a complete body of work.
The Tornillo aesthetic that I have developed over the years is the result of my studies, my travels and the making of hundreds of paintings. It is characterized by five basic principles. In this and a few subsequent posts I will try to describe and explain these five principles.
And I will try to use fewer than ‘lots of thousands of’ words.