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That's not Art...

What’s one to do when someone insists you’re not doing art? One option would be to pepper their jowls with a glove and challenge them to a duel. Bad idea. I haven’t shot my rubber band gun in decades, so I’m sure to miss.

I must confess to being baffled at most modern art. I realize the object or context is supposed to conjure some feeling in me, and that’s the point. If the feeling is confusion, they should declare victory. Not all modern art is so challenging, but enough of it is that I feel inadequate to the task. It sometimes seems the artists are having a laugh at us rubes who stand there trying to feel something. Still, I accept that it could be art; not to me perhaps, but to someone.

Outside of a museum, what is the proof one is producing art? Is convincing a curator more important than convincing me? I must admit that the answer to the last question can be discomfiting. In a journalism class, my professor asked “What is news?” The rest of the class answered with versions of the statement—important things that happened that day. I answered, “It’s what gets reported.” That’s the correct answer of course. News isn’t theoretical. It’s a practical commodity. It would take infinite resources to recount every important thing every day. I fear that art may have an equally practical definition. It’s what gets put into museums.

Lots of important art gets done outside of museum walls. Commercial art is art. There are loads of artists who will never be given museum space. Luck, connections, temperament; the list of reasons stretches on and on. Sometimes they are poor technicians, or poor interpreters of the emotions they strive for. Sometimes there’s no discernible reason. We lack the resources to properly celebrate all art, so we don’t.

Origami is slowly being accepted as a true art form. That only took a couple thousand years. As a student of the art (I always felt it was art) I’m confounded by the resistance. “It’s paint by numbers,” people will say. Yes, but so is beginner painting. Notice you actually used the word paint in your derision? As for paper airplanes, I’ve come to accept that some people will never see the art. That’s okay.

The perfect crease, the precise wing folding, the shaping that creates both beauty and airfoil; I know that some people will never allow paper planes to be mentioned in the same sentence as Picasso. Some people struggle with including original paper aircraft with Curtis or (for shame) the Wright Brothers. I think those artists and inventors would have the opposite opinion of paper airplanes, but the protectors of their reputations have a stake in building pedestals—which I think their heroes would abhor.

For all the artists out there struggling to be acknowledged, I see you. I acknowledge you. The greatest leap I ever made was from being kinda crazy to being eccentric (that’s just bonkers with a bowtie). Here’s to the outliers, the misfits, and the undiscovered. We know what we’re doing, even if the world doesn’t. And we’re polite enough to let everyone else have their say.


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