Friday, November 16, 2007

On Authenticity -

(Picture by Trina Schart Hyman. Maybe this explains why I like her work so much?)

I know this is not on our current topic, but this is something I think about frequently. One of Robert Genn's latest newsletters talked about the following:

In a public gallery the other day I came upon a tailored young woman and her equally tailored mother. They were admiring a painting by an artist I happen to know. As I lingered to see what they were seeing, the daughter turned to me and said, "It's the only good one in here." While I was mulling her dangerous pronouncement, the word "authentic" slipped from her lip gloss. She invited my agreement with her considerable eyes, and I gave back.

She had been struck by that indescribable something that says "quality." Beyond quality--more like "presence." The real goods as opposed to the ersatz. It happens. Suddenly you see and you trust. If you have an open mind, any type of art can do the trick--realistic, abstract, a lofty installation or a practical craft. And as creative people, wherever we're coming from, we intuitively know authenticity is something worth having.

I've always thought that authenticity wasn't an add-on but the best effort of an authentic person. This person may have acute powers of observation or an eye beyond the ordinary. You can sometimes tell the authentic by seeing something else nearby that isn't. In a way it's sad that people will actually pay for this vacuum. Intuitively or unconsciously, finer eyes see virtue beside subject and rendering. As I said, it's indescribable. "Casual, confident, understated, refined," may be words these eyes use. Some simply feel an underlying ego force or the power of intended design.

PS: "He is only an eye, but my God what an eye." (Paul Cezanne was speaking about Claude Monet)

He goes on to talk about how authenticity is still subjective - but it is something that I, personally, am striving for - in my work, and in my life.



Rebecca Bush said...

I really liked this post, thanks for sharing it, Tara. It really cuts to the quick of what "quality" really is. It's easy to get caught up in labels like "fine art" vs. "illustration" vs. "craft" but it really comes down to whether or not something has a "presence" as he says. You can say that the author has an "eye" or that they are able to channel energy through their work, but when you see it, it's unmistakable.

suzy said...

Just last week I had the opportunity to discuss this very subject when I was trying to explain the difference between high quality and poor quality art to a non-artist friend. I didn't do a good job educating her and barely got past some very subjective value judgements and weak examples. With a bit more thought, what I have come up with is this: quality or authentic art (I think the terms are pretty much interchangable)is that which is carefully crafted from the heart by an educated creator. The artist can be self-educated or taught by others but must have at least basic knowledge of art principles so that he/she can follow them or deliberately break them. The work must be created with the artist's full consciousness--its elements must all be deliberately and specifically included and during this process of selection the artist injects a part of him/herself in the art. The artist's abstract thoughts are literally translated into visual form in the art. It is the inclusion of the artist's choices (really his/her taste)that determines the style of the piece. Finally, the resulting art in order to be authentic or of quality, must have enough content (whether in form, detail, color,thematic message, whatever) to engage and involve the viewer in space and time. It cannot be considered authentic if it serves only as fleeting, superficial visual enjoyment. There is of course, not a specific amount of time the viewer must be engaged only that he/she is stopped momentarily, pulled out of the present world and into the art to explore the piece visually and emotionally. The art that can do that would be instantly recognized as authentic.