Monday, May 11, 2009

Beauty in Art

Agnes Martin, Painter (1912-2004)

Is that all?

This is a question that continually pervades my consciousness. Maybe this perpetual state of existential angst is the reason that I am an artist. I am driven to create beauty and to find meaning in what I do.

In the world of contemporary art, art is expected to provoke a reaction. Shock value is prized above an aesthetic that is pleasing to the eye. Beautiful art is considered a sell-out for the sake of commerce. My art has been called "pretty" and "decorative" and is often dismissed before the deeper meaning behind what I make is considered.

In the past few weeks, I've wrestled with the question of whether I could create an artwork (for an invitational competition) that was ugly for the sake of provoking reaction in the viewer. It caused me many sleepless nights and considerable anguish, but in the end, beauty won out, even though the symbolism and deeper meaning were present in the piece.

Agnes Martin(1912-2004) achieved great renown with her abstract paintings of straight lines. Her quietly elegant paintings are owned by the Museum of Modern Art in New York and other museums around the world. I found myself seeking consolation in her comments on art and beauty:

"Beauty and happiness and life are all the same and they are pervasive, unattached and abstract and they are our only concern. They are immeasurable, completely lacking in substance. They are perfect and sublime. This is the subject matter of art."

"When I think of art, I think of beauty. Beauty is the mystery of life. It is not in the eye, it is in the mind. In our minds, there is an awareness of perfection."

What does beauty mean to you?
Can a beautiful work of art create a reaction?

P.S. Coincidentally, today Sallymandy at the Blue Kimono wrote about What is an Artist? .