Saturday, May 5, 2012

True Value

So what is the true value of a work of art? Is it based on content, context and or technique? No it's not. Content, context and technique is not the final measure of value in a work of art, even though as an idealist, I believed it to be so.

The value of an artist or piece of work is based on perceived value a viewer brings to the work. I have no control how a person perceives my work. Who the viewer is, drives the perception of value. Status, intellectualism and materialism are more of the driver of value than content, context and technique.

An experience I had with one of my students, reveals to me why art work based on content, in the "right" context with flawless technique is ignored or meets with only minimal attention.

For example, an adult student of mine enthusiastically shared his art with me. The work was done on inexpensive paper, in pencil, colored pencil and water color of waif-like naked young women, interacting with dragons, fairies and gnomes, all expertly rendered.

The content was fantasy bordering on soft-core pornography appropriate for prepubescent boys, a la Thomas Kinkade's illustrative style. I was revolted and felt I was looking at someones emotionally stunted growth. I believe content of art work evolves, as the artist personally does. At least, it does for me.

This guy complained he showed his portfolio to a university fine art department and could not understand why he was refused entrance. The human figures were well drawn, the composition was unique and the images were creative. What was the problem?

When I delicately mentioned that it might be the subject matter, he shot back "well this stuff sells well in Europe and Asia" somehow suggesting all of America is prudish. He did not want to accept responsibility for the images he was creating and did not want to look at why they were being rejected.

It got me to think about what I was unwilling to look at in my work. I started to think about how my work might affect the viewer. Not to change my work for the viewer, but rather what was I bringing to the viewer.