Sunday, July 12, 2009

Art Blog: Process vs. Product

I have always been one to try to keep up with the times. I keep my nose in the news so I am aware of trends no matter how silly they might be. I am always buying and using the lasted techno gadget. I pride myself on being knowledgeable in all facets of contemporary life. Yet, there are some things that I don’t care about in this world right now. It seems that there is a changing mood about art, its purpose, and why it is made.

For the past few years, I have noticed an increasing number of art marketing websites, art marketing coaches, and more art sales everything. Even many artists I meet online tout and hawk their newest art “products”. There is nothing wrong with this. I have sold art. I have seen my own work as product many times before. However, the primary goal for me is the process. If someone buys work from me, it then becomes a product.

My first priority is the creative thinking, collecting, and sorting of concepts and ideas. There is the push and pull of materials. There is the angst and pleasure of bringing to resolution a new creation. I guess I am truly “old skool” when it comes to this philosophy. I am more concerned and dedicated to the act of making the art. I am interested in the creative process first. Making of the art is of paramount importance. If the work turns into a product after the process, that is secondary to me.

This is a very heady topic and anyone of us could write a thesis about it. For me, I think this is an issue of the purpose of art. I see art as being an intensely personal endeavor. I don’t make art which aspires to be a part of home décor. To me, art is not about matching the color of anyone’s walls or couch. Art shouldn't be just pretty pictures. Art is an expression of the artist. Art should speak about life. Art should reflect the artist and the society in which she lives. Art should have content which is expressed by the artist and interpreted by the viewer. I can’t imagine cranky out gewgaws for the pure sake of selling internet junk.

This topic has made me irritable lately. I didn’t realize how uncomfortable I was until reading so much about the new, art reality show being developed by Sarah Jessica Parker. I am a fan of many reality shows. I couldn’t figure out why this show concept raises the hair on my arms. I think it is because it fans the flames of the “art as product” idea to a new level. I see it as promoting not only the art as commodity, but the artist as a product too. It denies the purity and essence about which being an artist should be.

I don’t want to sound like a naïve, Pollyanna. I am very aware artist's need to make a buck too. Maybe I am behind the times in this area of our lives. However, I think too highly of art and artists to ever accept this new way of thinking about the creative process. This is ok for me. I don’t want to think of ART on any other level. If I do, it makes me feel dirty. Now I realize this is why I have recently felt annoyed.

No matter how hard I try, I know for sure I will never change this one part of me. In regard to ART, I will always view process over product. To me, art is not about making widgets or creating, new hipster art celebrities. Art and creativity should be seen as far more important than this in our world.


Alyson B. Stanfield said...

Sheree, great post! As you know my business focus is on helping give artists the skills to make a living, but I'm constantly reminding them that the artmaking MUST come first. It has to be about the art.

The only reality shows I watch are cooking shows, which I confess to loving. I don't think this SJP production is the first stab at an artist reality show. I think one was in the works a few years ago and then put on the back shelf. You're right, though, something about it stinks. But that's not saying anything about the show (which we haven't seen), but about our culture. I don't know what to think about it and I'll reserve judgment until the premiere, but I know I'll watch it--if only because it puts visual artists on prime time. And, boy, then the debate will really begin.

Thanks for your great post! I'm going to tweet this and send some peeps over here.

hazel colditz said...

you go girl! it is and has always been a process! i did not know about this "reality show" but i'm sure it'll be entertaining! any artist whom lives their passion will know truth vs commercialism(generating dollars/viewership) wouldn't it be nice if the show in fact finds a "pure" artist in it to create and inspire others and not out to set his brand on fire for mass productions!? tho, people love to watch drama and artists tend to fill that void rather well!! most pure artists will avoid the show i'm sure, viewers might just show up at their first art exhibit just to see firsthand what an artist/art experience is about;ie they learn something! i think the hardest piece to swallow is the fact that i (speaking for myself only) create from personal experiences/beliefs...the energy that moves thru me. therefore i hold myself in a vulnerable position. open for all minds to view favorably or harshly! frankly, don't give this show too much energy to will pass over time..and we'll still be here doing what we love and sharing it to all! do we have a choice?

Rayna said...

Hooray! I teach process and I do only process -- not caring whether I ever get a product out of it or not.
Would that there were more of us who felt this way!

namastenancy said...

I posted about the SJP artist "reality " show in my blog. Frankly, I find the idea appalling. I don't see any way this can promote good art and I don't want to see art as another TV spectator sport. While I often lament artists' needs for solitude and their (often) very individualistic attitudes, I don't really want to see that change - or at least, be changed in the way that Bravo TV would change it. I bet that Bravo is not being totally honest with whom they will chose either. When I watched their Project Runway show, I believed, at first, that all the contestants were unknowns or beginners. Not so. Most already had their own clothing lines and were already established. So much for giving a complete beginner a head start. I suspect that the art show will be the same - more publicity and money for somebody who has already made it. Anyway, the whole concept disgusts me. I'm not naive about artists needing to make money but this is too much selling yourself on the street (IMHO).
Obviously other people will disagree.

namastenancy said...

One more thing - I was thinking about your comment about art celebrities when I previewed the Baldessari show at the Legion. I don't know if I like his work or not and I give him many gold stars for making idiosyncratic art years before anybody "got" it but he is also a hipster art celebrity.

Eva said...

I think it is a double-edged sword. If you look through art history, at least the past 2 hundred years or so, art is not just a process or just a product. It's the myth or the story of an indvidual. Van Gogh is not just about his process or his paintings - it's about him. Same with O'Keeffe, same with Joseph Cornell, we could go on. And so this idea of a show about artists as personalities rings true to a degree: people don't just buy work. They buy a piece of an artist, the fragment of a persona and personal journey. And even when is all about process, doesn't the best of those works give the viewer something to wrap their heads and eyes around? The "product" of the work is still there somehow.

From what I've read, SJ Parker was just "amazed" at how many of us worked throughout the years for very little recognition or award. And that's true, isn't it? I am actually hoping that they do find some mid-career artists who are not famous but yes, making engaging work. She acknowledged that she didn't know much about art but was shocked at a group (that would be us!) who invests so heavily in something that 90% of the population knows nothing about.

Claude said...

I am seriously thinking of not calling myself an artist anymore...instead I'm a 'painter'...When asked "Oh...What do you paint?" I sez "Houses, buildings, walls, trim and signs"...and thus avoiding the boring web of "intellectual analysis" on why I've created visual art all my life. Simple: Love and Money.LOL!
It will interesting to see how the group of artists producing Sarah Jessica Parker's 'art reality show' see visual artists...really!

Miriam's Art Journal said...

I agree....I cannot stand the idea either... reminds me of when I am teaching in the class trying to get everyone to create and the classroom teacher lifting one child's art and saying...."this one is very good"