Thursday, February 02, 2006

Is it ART?

I gave the following speech at the WestConn Toastmasters, Wooster School Library, Danbury, CT on Wednesday, February 1, 2006.

Is it ART?

Is this art? Sure, I think everyone would say that this is “art”

Is this art? Show of hands?

Is this art?

Is this art?

Is this art?

Is this art? [see picture in post above]

How do you know what is art? Especially with non-traditional types of art?

First, let me start out with the "dictionary definition" of Art ....
"The conscious production or arrangement of sounds, colors, forms, movements, or other elements in a manner that affects the sense of beauty, specifically the production of the beautiful in a graphic or plastic medium. "

Doesn't really help much when it comes to non-traditional art, does it?

I’m going to address three common issues with non-traditional art and when I’m done, it is my goal that you will have a different perspective on what you consider “good” art !

The 3 issues are:

1) If it didn’t take long to create, then it isn’t worth much. A variation on this is, “My 3 year old daughter could do that.”

2) “I just plain don’t like it.”

3) “There’s too much garbage out there that’s not art !”

To tackle the issue of how much effort it takes, let me tell you a story about my grandfather.

Back in the early 60’s, he had an old run-down pump to provide water for his vacation cottage in NH. It always seemed to me to be held together with rubber bands and was always dying, usually when I was in the middle of my shower.

One day it died and he called up the local mechanic to fix it. The mechanic came out, looked over the pump.... took out his wrench .... and gave it a solid rap on the side. It roared back to life! My grandfather thanked him and figured since it only took him a few seconds, the bill would be small, if he even sent him a bill.

The next day, a bill from the mechanic for $35 showed up in the mail. My grandfather was furious. How could it be that much ... remember that $35 in the 60’s was like $500 now !

So he called up the mechanic and demanded and ITEMIZED bill, figuring that he would be embarrassed to itemize it or would not be able to justify his charges.

The next day, a new bill showed up with the following itemization:
Rap on the pump: $ .03
Knowing how to do it : $ 34.97

Art is the same way. Anyone can do it, but it can takes years to develop the background and skills to make the creation look effortless.

The second issue is: “I just don’t like it.”

To this I would ask, “Do you like freedom?”

The United States is a great country because we have freedom of expression. You have freedom of choice.

You don’t have to like someone else’s art, but it is in your best interest to defend everyone’s right to choose.

In addition, you also have the freedom to vote with this (show money). What you buy in many ways helps to determine what gets shown in public because if people cannot make money, they will have to do something else.

This leads me to the third issue: “There’s too much garbage art out there”
On this point, I have to agree with you. But I will add that it can actually be a good thing.
First, let me say that the internet has caused an explosion in choices.

A good example that people can relate to is books.
It used to be that there were best selling books in bookstores and if it didn’t make it to the bookstore, the odds were that you would never find it because it cost the publisher too much to get it into the store.

Now with the internet, there is what is called the “Long Tail”. This is where it costs next nothing to publish one more book and sell it on Amazon. Since the cost is so low, authors can publish their works and turn a profit by selling a very small number of books. These books usually appeal to small niches or segments of the market. For example, did you know that you can do a search on “toe nails” on and come up with 2,494 books!

There’s lots of stuff out there. It applies to books, records and even art. The good news is that whatever you like .... it is out there ! You just need to find it !

In summary, Art is subjective but what if you expanded your mind to appreciate the skills and years of practice that went into other forms of art.

I encourage you to defend other people’s rights to choose ... so you maintain your own right to choose.

And finally,

Find art that suits your tastes... there is lots out there and some of it is PERFECT for you !

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