Sunday, May 6, 2012

The Artist & The Critic


The Artist

            As I get older -yes, I’m allowed to say that even though I’m only eighteen- I’ve noticed I’m losing the ability to define what I like and don’t like when it comes to artistic endeavors. Probably until the end of sophomore year, I could tell you what genre I liked. In elementary school I liked oldies. I couldn’t tell you the name of a single song that I enjoyed in that period. In middle school I liked country; in the first half of high school I liked any genre ending in –core. Now… well now I don’t care if I’m listening to Lamb of God or City & Colour because both artists create a feeling with their work. I don’t have a favorite painter, sculptor, or time period that defines the artwork that came from it because I can’t draw the lines to separate them. I see everything in terms of the effort that goes into making it.
            One time I took “Jack” to see a play. The Voyage, something like that. It was the first in a three part series about Russian philosophy. Needless to say, a lot more of it went over my head than his, but we both enjoyed it. Upon leaving the theater, we had talked about why we liked the play. I saw a dozen thespians, several of which had a day job on top of the acting they did, that memorized pronunciations of Russian words and philosophy to regurgitate it all in an understandable manner for a three hour performance. I learned from the play and appreciated all the work put into it. “Jack” saw how well the progression of 18th century Russian thought was portrayed and made comparisons to the other pillars of Russian thought, like Dostoevsky, and how it compared to Western philosophy. See the contrast?
            I’ve sharpened my teeth on the miniscule music scene around where I live, and I know how long it takes to write a single page of a novel. As an artist in the most general sense of the term, it’s built into my system to appreciate raw talent, to respect any work done to hone a skill, and unadulterated worship for those with raw talent who spend the hours necessary to create a pristine final product in any genre or medium of art. Who am I to call one thing better than another?

The Critic


This essay stems from a conversation that I have had with Jason on several occasions. Be it music, theater, literature, or art, Jason and I may enjoy the same things, but we always discover it is for fundamentally different reasons. Where Jason sees art in terms of the effort poured into its creation, I view everything in terms of content and meaning. In this sense, Jason has the perspective of an artist and I have the perspective of a critic. I'll continue Jason's example of music, since it illustrates the difference quite well. Like Jason, I too have a rather eclectic music taste that encompasses many different genres. Unlike Jason, talent and technical prowess don't interest me as much as the content being conveyed. Interpretation, analysis, and response color my opinions. Jason and I once attended a La Dispute concert (fantastic band by the way), and though we both enjoyed it, we walked away with very different impressions. After the show, Jason commented on the musical skill of the band members, while I walked away in complete awe of the complex lyrical themes and emotional, though not technically perfect, performance. Jason appreciates the effort and skill of composition; I appreciate the thought put into the meaning of the art. Another area in which this distinction between artistic and critical schools of thought comes into play is painting. An artistic thinker would appreciate the technical prowess of illusionistic painting. The precise skill needed to be able to represent forms as three dimensional on a two dimensional medium is impressive, but it isn't of as much interest to the critic. Styles such as Abstract Expressionism and Postmodernism are more appealing to me than the Renaissance or Realist masters (more on this in The Value of Ugly Art). The skill of illusionistic painters, while certainly worthy of praise, doesn't appeal to me as much as the thoughtful expression of idea and concept in more abstract forms. Really, the difference between Jason and I isn't that significant. We both like most of the same art, but the difference in appreciation, while miniscule is interesting. To use a traditional metaphor, Jason sees the individual tree of skill and detail, and I see the forest of theme and effect. Neither perspective is more correct than the other, and I believe they actually complement one another quite nicely. So now its your turn, what's your point of view, are you an artist or a critic?


"The Critic, Young Aspiring Artist Examining Oil Painting At Museum" by Norman Rockwell

-Jason Rossiter, "The Artist"
-"Jack", "The Critic"


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