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What is art?

In an excerpt on the strange artistic world of Marfa, Texas, from his book God Save Texas: A Journey into the Soul of the Lone Star State, Lawrence Wright ponders the limits of art. He offers an answer from the late Donald Judd, an artist who brought notoriety to Marfa as an arts community. Judd concluded in 1986, “Art is everything at once. Insofar as it is less than that it is less art. In visual art the wholeness is visual. Aspects which are not visual are subtractions from the whole.” Wright asks, “Which means what?”

Philadelphia parking lot mural
Philadelphia parking lot mural (Photo by T.S. Bremer, 2007)

Questioning art is questioning life itself. Our problem in defining art, like defining religion or work or even breathing, we tend to focus on the product, the outcome. Instead, as I see it, art is the processes of creation. For me, art is not that which is created; it is simply life, how we live, the manner in which we pass through this world. We are the art we live, in every breath, every word, every gesture, every thought and feeling and action.

In this respect, Judd seems in agreement: art is everything at once. But I would expand on his insight. Making art is not just for those who identify as artists. We are all artists all the time, making the greatest works of art imaginable in our very being.

“Pi a la mode” by sculptor Micajah Bienvenu, Webster’s Woods Art Park, Port Angeles Fine Arts Center, Washington (Photo by T.S. Bremer, 2017)

[Daily post 031 of 260 in my year-long challenge.] ♨

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