I’ve always loved art, got an MFA, hated art in a moment of crisis, became a writer, failed, and came back to art. What do I do now? I suppose that is an ongoing question that you face every time you make something you intend to be art. The question seems to be screaming at me now where as in the past it was a whisper that I often ignored.
I have heard many accounts of what art should be. Some say art is the quest for beauty, others say art is a demonstration of virtuosic skill, yet others see art as a continuous dialog with the art of the past – art about art. I think differently. You should find something that is interesting to you and do that. You may end up with a beautiful image, you probably need to develop skills to accomplish your quest, but these things aren’t what the work is about.
Specifically for me, I’m interested in Alfred Hitchcock, old movies, film noir and Fritz Lang. I am interested in the surrealist. De Chirico, Paul Delvaux, Carel Willink, and Mike Worrall thrill me. This is not controversial, there’s nothing about this that is revolutionary and so I may never be famous. But I can’t imagine feeling satisfied if I’m doing something contrary to my interests.
The interpretation of an image is to a large extent (if not entirely) a factor of context. I recently saw a photograph of the New York skyline. It showed the twin towers standing there like two monumental ghosts. It was impossible to look at without the context of people leaping from the burning buildings, trapped rescue workers, people in business suits covered in ash. The picture has changed completely it’s not about a vibrant metropolis but about a tragedy and the uncertainty that followed. The photographer could not have intended this interpretation. Rather than lamenting not having control of interpretation I see my art as a crossword puzzle for others to fill in. I must be careful to provide the structure but not do it all myself. Who is interested in a completed crossword puzzle? But unlike a crossword puzzle, there are no wrong answers.
My most successful art develops around a general idea. But if I know exactly what the end image should be I’m doomed. Developing the image is the process of understanding what it is. You’re done when you understand it. The same can be said for the body of my work. I can only understand it by making it and when I understand it it’s time to move on to something else. From my perspective the end image isn’t art; it’s the byproduct of art.