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What good art is to me

I grew up surrounded by art, which is statement I do not declare lightly. My parents were owners of multiple art galleries and art schools of which I spent much of my youth. I took classes at the art school and spent a lot of my time hanging out at the galleries. My parents were artists. Their friends were artists. I'd be an artist. There was no question, art was as normal as breathing. But all that said, I still could not formulate the correct answer to my question, "WHAT IS GOOD ART?!"

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As a child art was easy to understand. Everything I made with paint and objects were celebrated as good art. Anything framed and hung up in a museum was good art. As a youth, I drew my ideas down very poorly and was called a talent. For the most part, I had no real necessity to care as long as it looked right to me. Later on, it seemed to take more technical skill for the same praise. It was a bit confusing, to be honest. Art had so many definitions and so many critics that I didn't know what was right! As I learned more and more, there seemed to be more definitions and more categories! I went from wanting to be a photo realist, to an abstract expressionist, to being the next Magritte. There was just so much to take in that a conclusive answer seemed impossible. My parents would try to give me their definitions. My teachers would give me their definitions. Books would give me their definitions. Everyone had their own definition. I longed desperately to know one tangible answer! Years and years of study made me more and more confused. It seemed that the more I looked for my answer, the less I understood.

This was until I saw a bit of light. I can still remember the moment quite vividly. My friend and I were staring at the sun drop atop my downtown loft. Twilight grew near as we conversed on all aspects of life and art. He seemed to share the same questions and it felt rather nice. For once there was more than one idiot in the room, now there were two! As we bantered away, I suddenly sprang up! After all these years, I finally had an answer! "F**K IT!" Yup, that was my answer! I was elated!, but let me explain. In this moment of revelation, I realized that I had spent so much of my time trying to understand what was good and acceptable that I had forgotten myself. I was making art for others to judge more than I was making artwork for myself to love. In our conversation, I had talked of how I loved art that I connected to, art that had heart. I realized that, no matter what medium or voice, an artist had to love it for themselves.

I have taught art for 15 years now and have shown my work for just as long. By now, I don't know how many times I've been asked the same question, "What is good art?". I find this funny, because I can't just tell them to "F**k it!". There are so many artists that work in so many inspiring ways that the real answer to the question is with the viewer themselves. Within all the categories and critiqued world of art, the only way to find the true answer is within yourself. That is why I could never get a straight answer! It is because everyone had developed their own opinion. You are the real judge and that is what matters in the loving of art and in the making of it. An art education would give one more insight on how to appreciate those different pieces and make more of an informed decision, but the answer is always and should always ultimately reside with oneself. Art is too personal to let others decide for you. It depends on what you have decided according to what you decide is good. A pile of dung with a flag in it could be good if that is what you decided is your idea of excellence. The Mona Lisa could be bad, if that is what your individual truth tells you.

Those that are confused with what is art should just look at more art, and if they want to be an artist they should study more art. Decide for yourself the truth that makes your heart beat fast and you'll find good art for yourself.

 

 

Tiffany Liu1 Comment