Wednesday, February 25, 2009
Yeah, but is it art?
Bunny and I went to the Boca Raton Museum of Art. Bunny was interested in seeing their current exhibitions, “Shock of the Real” and “Duane Hanson: Sculpture and Photographs 1978–1995.
Bunny had initially thought that the “Shock of the Real” was a photography exhibit, but instead it turned out to be a series of photo-realistic paintings by several artists. She was amazed at the level of detail until I told her that most of the paintings were probably done by projecting the image onto the canvas and traced (only a few were described as being done this way, but I suspect most of them were done that way), as many Renaissance artists are suspected of using the camera obscura. This upset her quite a bit.
You see, we'd been having a months long discussion on artistic endeavours, the use of tools and the necessity of talent in artistic expression, and even the actual definition of “art” (one of my art teachers in FAU defined art as “that which is useless for survival”—an apt definition when you think about it). It would be difficult for me to sum up the current state of our debate and our individual stances (Bunny was initially horrified at the very thought of Microsoft's Songsmith, yet I loved the idea, but she understands musical theory and I don't, and she's softening her stance on that particular piece of software; I loathe PHP, but I understand programming, yet PHP allows non-programmers the ability to create dynamic websites, which I think is pretty neat (but I still wouldn't want to work with such code)—told you it was difficult to explain, much less sum up).
She felt at first that the photo-realistic artists were cheating by tracing photographs in oil, acrylic or watercolors (and man, some of them were hard to tell from photographs up close), but I reminded her of my final project in Drawing I at college—a self portrait, I totally cheated. I photocopied my hand (it was on an older photocopier—high contrast black and white). I then smeared powered graphite over drawing paper, then “traced” the photocpy on a light box using an eraser. Not only did I get an “A” on the project, but it was later stolen out of my office at IBM when I worked there (not only did I create “art” but I've had my “art” stolen!). Bunny thought I took a novel approach though, and this, coupled with a few more hours of discussion, began to soften her opinion on the cheating photo-realistic artists.
We both found the Duane Hanson exhibit less controversial, although still very interesting.