Saturday, July 18, 2009

Perpetually Revising Definitions

Okay, I did a bit of thinking. I'm revising my idea of what "wearable art" is. I went around Googling for a bit, and found some frighteningly beautiful pieces of art that are wearable. I found contests and exhibitions regarding it. I found vendors and jewelry makers that create it. I even found artists and museum shows.

All of these folks feel that they are making wearable art.

This morning I told my partner, Jonathan, "This isn't art! What's the point?"

And he said back to me, "There doesn't need to be one..."

And that's sent me into a sort of freefall. I suddenly found myself trying to justify my feelings to myself. He was right in one sense, I guess. Art doesn't need to have a reason--decorative art is indeed art just by pleasing the eye. It doesn't need a reason to be art any more than that.'s first two definitions of art are thus:

1.the quality, production, expression, or realm, according to aesthetic principles, of what is beautiful, appealing, or of more than ordinary significance.
2.the class of objects subject to aesthetic criteria; works of art collectively, as paintings, sculptures, or drawings: a museum of art; an art collection.

Hm. To me, the thing that stands out here in both definitions is the word aesthetic. And thus, I am reminded that all art must be viewed and appreciated in the appropriate context in which it's meant to be perceived. If it's a decorative print on a t-shirt, or the Mona Lisa in the Louvre, each context is what it is and we value each expression based on how that context provides the criteria, or aesthetics, we use to evaluate that expression.

So I'm flipping through these different wearable art sights, and I'm coming to a conclusion that is still in it's seminal stages... The problem with a lot of art, abstract art especially, is that we (as viewers) don't have the proper set of criteria in which to regard each expression. It's like someone excitedly saying, "Watch this! Watch this!" as he shows you a 5-second video snippet of the vast emptiness of the Sahara. And you do, and then he says, "Did you see that? Did you see what I'm talking about?"

See what?!? What were you supposed to be looking for in the first place? There was no context. No aesthetics. No frame of reference. Are you just supposed to be able to read his mind regarding what he wants you to perceive?

A lot of art would be appreciated a lot more if we didn't jump to conclusions before reading artist statements or asking questions. We can appreciate it's form, shape, color, line, mass, texture, and space--it's elements. And sometimes that's entirely the point--we ponder that at first and then it leads us to more pondering, and suddenly we've taken a journey in our heads that was prompted by this piece of art. Sometimes the journey is the point. More often than not, however, it's the feelings that are elicited by the combination of those elements that make you feel something. And because you feel something, you think about things. And the journey that you go on in your head and your heart is not so distant and cerebral, but emotional and personal.

And that's a lot easier to do when you let the artist help you, or take photographs on the web simply as that: pretty pictures. It's only part of the story...

On a very basic level, Art Stimulates. That's it. Done. Pretty simple. How it stimulates, why it stimulates, when, and who... And how well... Those are the bigger questions. And there are no simple answers.

So in my quest to try to decide what is wearable art... Well, I guess I'm still looking but I feel a lot closer. Wearable Art is, at it's core, wearing something that stimulates. The how, why, when, who---those are aesthetics. Those vary depending on context. So I can't be too quick to judge what is wearable art, because the art part of it is completely wide open. The wearable part I can have strong feelings about! And the art's effectiveness based on how wearable it is!

I guess, in the end, I've learned that I'm just looking to create my art in a different context. It isn't the art that's wrong, it's that I'm applying my desired frame of reference on garments that aren't meant to fit into it at all.

So I'm gonna look at things with a different eye, now, and try to develop some new aesthetics, criteria, and frames of reference when I explore more wearable art.

In the end, it's heartening. My foray into the wearable art world is just as valid as any other's. And that's a really good feeling.

Live life with relish!

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