Art: The High Cost of Living pt.2


“When artists try to make art that is universal and not personal they always fail”-Sebastian Horsley

Greetings beautiful people

This is the second part of the “Art: The High Cost of Living” topic, as I’m sure you guessed by the title of the blog.  The above quote by one Sebastian Horsley, I think covers my ideology on the arts as a whole.  I’ve been looking  at ew paintings recently by contemporary figurative artists and I have to say that in my most educated sense of critique, I have deemed them “cheesy”.

I look at allegories of modern urban landscapes circa Boyz in the Hood or some unwritten Cameron Crowe script. The pictures are superbly painted,  but the end result is a dull message hardly worth much thought beyond the surface of the canvas. 

As a college art professor, one of the most difficult things to do is inspire creativity in your students.  Technical skill is something that anyone can learn.  Well not anyone, there was this one girl I had in my class who couldn’t draw to save her life!  I mean if a gun was put to her head, and she was told to draw anything that could be remotely recognized by the human eye, then she would be dead.  I digress.  You can teach someone how to draw a circle, perspective, how to blend tones, proper scumbbling with a brush etc.   Yet present them with a simple problem where creativity is the answer, and watch them crumble into status quo. 

Now I know currently, we as a species don’t really have original thought.  That being the case, we have to take a critical look at ourselves as individuals and express that to the world.  The things that one feels are most personal to them are the most universal to everyone else.  I don’t have a single problem in my life, that someone else hasn’t gone through first.  Yet I have individual feelings and vision.  No matter what issues come in me, they are filtered through what ever strange lense God blessed me with, and it comes out “me”.  Fiona Apple’s Extraordinary Machine comes to mind.

This applies to the performing arts as well.  I was discussing spoken word poetry, acting, and singing with my friends and it’s always interesting to see people try to bring it on a stage.  I’ve heard singers wail in the loudest, flattest, high pitched scream you can think of and they think they’re doing something good.  I’ve heard angry poets at the crescendo of the piece sound slightly ticked off at best.  I’ve seen actors act as good as Winona Rider, and since she sucks, that’s not a compliment.  The things I  typically see wrong with these people is that they are trying to appeal to everyone instead of being themselves.  There is an art to mimicking, I mean look at Lenny Kravitz, but even at his most doppelgänger moments, he’s always been Lenny.  One should never try to paint a picture of what you think something is, but rather paint what you know it is.  One should never perform and act like they are angry, but rather show us what they are like when they are angry.

 It’s not easy to put yourself out there like that.  Your naked essentially.  No one wants to be seen ugly without the make up on, but if you want to be a beast at something, that’s exactly what you have to do.    To wonder into the wilderness where most people are afraid to go.  To open that Pandora’s box not knowing if you’ll ever be able to close it.  Real art, my friends, should have you scratching through the walls until we see the truth.  Go on get you some.

Until next time beautiful people

Yo brotha



4 thoughts on “Art: The High Cost of Living pt.2

  1. Tim says:

    Ty, I remember Harvey telling me not to sculpt what I know,or what I think I know, but to sculpt what I see… Brilliant words from crotchety old New Yorker!

  2. Suzanne says:

    Thank you for these words… they are exactly what I needed to read right now. I had a studio crit with a professor this morning. It was a great crit because he gave me new things to think about in relation to my work. In your blog post you talk about the fact that there is no original ideas/thought. In other words, we all know we aren’t reinventing the wheel. However, as you say, there is one thing we each, as individual’s, have that no other person on earth does… our own, unique perspective. So how do we express something that, at it’s essence is universal, but for the individual is incredibly complex without over simplifying? Without making it a cliche’? How do you express the personal yet universal in a way that’s engaging? A way that keeps the conversation going? That is what occupies my thoughts tonight… I had no idea grad school would make my brain hurt so much.

    • Mr. Sawyer says:

      Suzzane I’m glad my words meant something to you. Can’t wait to see your newer work. You were always one the most creative and skilled students I’ve had the pleasure of instructing.

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