Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Art and Taxes

A friend of mine posted the above statement on her Facebook page and it has been twisting and turning in my brain ever since I first read it. It was posted in an effort to make the act of making art more accessible - more commonplace. But is it? Is life art? 

My answer came when I filed my taxes today. I make art for a living. I have made art my entire life and I can honestly say that when I was filing my taxes I was not using the part of my brain, or my soul, or my spirit or anything else that I use to make art. Taxes were definitely not art for me! This thought gave way to the poster above and I started to think, why do we want to reduce the miracle of talent and creativity to a commonplace activity? It is true that art is a part of life - it lends beauty, it creates controversy and it incites passion BUT art it not life. 

I know the statement above says that Life is Art and I said, Art is not Life. Life is so much more than art and art is so much more than life. Bits of life are contained in art but the work that is created transcends it's source. Art is magical when it is done right. The statement above reduces living a life gracefully to making art. Any artist knows that your aesthetics will flow into all areas of your life simply because you are living art. However I know plenty of artists that save all of their energy for the work and their lives are neither well decorated nor do they have distinct personalities. 

I suppose on one level the fact that someone would post this statement belittles what I consider to be so important. It says that making art, thinking about art and considering art in and of itself is not that special. If you can be artistic in how you make a grocery list is this really saying anything? To make it mean something wouldn't you have to put that grocery list in context with something else?

Art asks the hard questions - it leaves room for interpretation - it messes things up so you see things differently. Art is a process and a dynamic way of processing information that requires talent and skill. 

I have decided to reword the statement above to show how I feel as an artist to have my profession and my training reduced to a statement that infers anybody can do it...

i think everything in life is brain surgery.
what you do. how you dress.
the way you love someone,
and how you talk. your smile 
and your personality. what you 
believe in, and all your dreams.
how you drink your tea.
how you decorate your home,
or party. your grocery list. the food
you make. how your writing looks.
and the way you feel.

life is brain surgery.

You can see how ridiculous this looks when applied to brain surgery. The same set of standards when applied to art are equally baseless and ridiculous. But somehow we accept making art as a profession that everyone can do a little of - it is a cultural prejudice that we don't want to be a nation of factory workers. We are all striving for individual expression and art allows us that. So when I look back on my reaction to this poster I suppose I should be flattered that so many want to feel artistic in their daily lives and hope that it creates a greater appreciation of the art that so many of us strive to make.