Wherefore ‘Art’ Thou?

Bill and Bess in the snow

Art for me is something that evokes a visceral response, and as such, everything in my world therefore can be considered an expression of art. The following piece I posted originally on my poetry and introspection blog, but as it is, I thought it might make a good introductory post. The piece was sparked by Bill’s recent series, 100 Days of Art, and the ensuing discussion between us over the weeks that it covered.


As an artist the most significant thing someone could say to me is that I inspire them through my work, or the expression of my particular art. The thing with that kind of validation, is that it becomes addictive. With every new expression of your art you need new validation of your ability to inspire. Art only becomes art when exchanged and shared with others, as the definition of something as art can only come from comparison and trend established in agreement with others.

To ever consider myself a lonely artist is erroneous, because in calling myself an artist at all is an adherence to an already widely accepted notion of what art is supposed to be, and realising that this is essentially a social endeavour that requires participation of more than just myself. If I the ‘artist’ do something just for me, then surely I am merely being myself as there is no art to be defined by comparison?

In calling myself an artist then, what I am saying is that I want to inspire you, and that I would like you to tell me that I inspire you with the possible added bonus that you might inspire me back. The simplest, most innate form of art I suppose is the smile. When you smile at someone, there is the expectation, the hope that they will reciprocate and smile back, thus giving you the validation of comradeship that you seek. Art in what ever form it takes, is another manifestation of the smile, even if for all intents and purposes it looks like a grimace. Any form of communication is a desire to interact and engage with others. It’s a two way street that should ideally benefit all parties involved.

As someone who identifies herself as an artist, I am acknowledging the clearly defined rules of being an artist, and to not be acknowledged as such is disappointing. Much like if I were to smile at you, but you didn’t smile back. I would assume that you didn’t like me, or at the very least that my art just did not inspire you. That in itself would make me question my own motives and perhaps drive me to improve or change my method of delivery, so that perhaps next time I would be more successful in making that all important connection.

Perhaps the key is in the timing, like a good joke who’s punchline is a killer, having maximum effect on an audience who has already bought into your act. The best smiles are the ones where you catch another off-guard, that spontaneous moment where you both connect if but for a split second, but that carry the greatest impacts and that can change the course of the day and beyond. That’s the kind of art I want to produce. If I make you smile, or make you connect with me in some way through my work, then I have succeeded, until the next fix that is. And if I can keep eliciting these kinds of responses, and possibly even make money from it, then I can consider myself a professional artist. But all it comes down to, really, is the ability to make others smile, or frown even. A response in fact is better than none. A positive one is always preferable, but even a negative one says something about my/your ability to impact the lives of others. I suppose it comes down to what we as people want personally. Who are we aiming to impress, who would we truly like to connect with, and more importantly why?

Understanding my motivation for being the artist that I believe myself to be is an intrinsic part of my art. For the most part, I enjoy all the forms of artistic expression that I engage with. First and foremost I get personal satisfaction from doing what I do. If I can then share it with others and elicit a similar response, then I’m happy. That is almost enough for me. If I could make a living from that, then that would add a new dimension to my experience as an artist, although the money will never be my prime motivation for being an artist and wanting to share my art. My prime motivation will always be wanting to make you smile, and thus validating that my smile was worth every muscle and ounce of dopamine too.

6 thoughts on “Wherefore ‘Art’ Thou?

  1. Well said. I think the same is true for appreciating art. If we can determine what our objective is in art — just seeing something lovely, creating a surrounding space of art, or using it as a trigger for emotional experiences, we can figure out what kinds of art to explore.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Eek!

    Art only becomes art when exchanged and shared with others … ” oooh, debatable? I do see your point, and feel it too, but you’ve just removed from the category all those lovely cave paintings (some great ones in Chauvet, Altamira, and many others—well worth a Google) that haven’t been seen or shared for anything up to forty thousand years.
    Were they ever intended as ‘art’, or simply a bit of playful graffiti?.
    Damn I think I posted something just recently … getting absent minded.

    On the subject of graffiti it has become mandatory to laud it as ‘street art’. Yeah, right. I see it as simple anti-social vandalism myself … I read a definition many years ago that ‘art’ which conveys a meaning from one soul to another is real art, regardless of medium. Certainly a lot of graffiti conveys a message to me (but I doubt very much it’s what the would-be ‘artist’ intended—or are they just the sub-human equivalent of a dog pissing everywhere it goes?

    Words to that effect (conveying a message from one soul to another) —but then, can the nice Islamic chappies who slaughtered those Parisians, or the US drone pilots who rearrange Islamic weddings … not also be considered practical ‘artists’? Their message … how about “I dislike you lots, you nasty persons”?

    Hiroshima as a grand-scale artistic event?

    Naaaa … hah! Open a can of worms, why don’t you … art, I like it!


    • My point was that ‘art’ is a fairly modern definition, and as such it tends to be others who deem something as being worthy of artfulness, or not. But as I iterated somewhere around here, as far as I’m concerned everything, every expression of anything, can be considered art, purely because of the level of skill required to do anything as a living and breathing human-trying-to-be. So, yes, ancient cave paintings, and even defamatory graffiti are forms of art in my book. Although, I would question as to whether said cave-painters would have considered themselves artists or not in the sense that we currently understand. We may never know, unless you or I, or someone happens across a dusty old memory from a past life where we were such an artiste. 😉

      Liked by 1 person

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