Monday, April 13, 2009

Don't sweat, well, any stuff

I like to think that I have fewer opinions now than I have since infancy. That may or may not be true, but thinking so pleases me. The need to weigh in on each and every topic for fear of being seen as/actually being wishy washy only leads you to cast your snap judgments in bronze. Most often these judgments turn out to be inconsequential at best.

One opinion I do still carry is that aesthetic discernment is largely useless. Further, it may actually be counterproductive for someone who wants to be an artist.

To be sure, I don't mean that one should remain ignorant of artistic history and practice. Meaning I may have to whet my point here a little.

First off, formal aesthetics are just that--formal. Not a few philosophers and artists have come up with actual mathematical formulae, such as the golden ratio. And the artists have applied this principle to great works. But a large number of artists in the twentieth century have shed the golden mean, at least from everyday practice, and still managed to survive. You could name Picasso, but someone like Max Ernst would be an even better example. Surrealism tends to place objects according to their instinctual meaning more than mathematical worth.

Then there's the prejudice for things that have stood the test of time. To know literature, read Shakespeare, not Zane Grey or science fiction. To understand music, listen to Bach, not the Killers. And there is something to be said for things that stand the test of time. But modeling your own work on Renaissance masters exclusively basically means ignoring everything that happened between then and now. It may be healthier to see the classics as part of a network rather than the beginning of a straight line.

If you like something that the critics--or your teachers, if you have any--don't think is worthy, there's no need to assume something is wrong with you. Examine what you're getting that everyone else is missing. It could just be hormones and alcohol working on you. But if that's the case, they'll run their course.


Matthew Frederick said...

I like your idea of the network, rather than the straight line. I agree.

susan said...

There was a Chinese belief that demons only likes to travel in straight lines. Hence, a bridge that crossed to a sacred spot might zigzag numerous times in order to keep the place pure. The bridge was a demon filter.

Ben said...

I like that. The demons think they're being sooooo efficient. Probably have a copy of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Tormentors. And yet how easy to outfox them.

Anyway, I'm glad these ramblings of mine actually seemed to strike a chord.