Art for the Artist, or for the Public?
I enjoyed George F. Spicka's and Kenneth Willaman's letters in The Sun April 18 and 19. I assume both these men are legitimate artists in the field of music. My interest as a layman is: Who or what are illegitimate artists, or is there such a breed?
The term artist is batted around more than a slow-pitch softball, without any definition of the term. I believe the unwashed's main complaint with National Endowment for the Arts funding is primarily in the field of art (painting, sculpture, etc.) where the level of training and ability is somehow mixed up with creativity, originality and uniqueness.
It seems to me that child prodigies in the field of art are similar to those in the field of music, i.e., they have uncanny natural ability. Both music and art talent is structured. We do not recognize early skills in dribbling paint, drawing squares or taking photographs (any youngster can do this).
In both these arenas, recognized talent is nurtured and developed over the years. While progress, especially in the performing realm, is relatively simple to evaluate, frequently the creative "genius" in art takes on the economic flavor of a con game rather than the display of real skill in today's adults.
Most art and music over the centuries have been created with the viewer and listener in mind. Both developed and changed over the years with many new innovations unacceptable to the public at the time.
However, they were basically in a form to which the layman could relate. Many of today's artists work under the guise of creating some esoteric piece, displaying little of the traditional art skills, but trying to attract attention through some non-artistic ploy.
In addition, fine arts now are suffering from technological advancements; photography is replacing painting and drawing; records, tapes and CDs are drastically reducing the need for live musical performances; and movies continue to curtail live drama.
Also, besides creative artists not being able to improve upon past works, the market is flooded with all the great works of art, music and literature, easily accessible to the average citizen. These new media allow for a practically perfect interpretation of a picture, musical selection or drama through modern techniques.
Another problem which has plagued the fine arts world for some time is the question of whether artists or laymen are determining what art is. Today's artists would like to claim that the unsophisticated viewer is no judge of art.
Using Mr. Willaman's statement that artists "are the people who examine what we feel, what we sense, that can't be expressed in any other manner," I, the epitome of unsophistication, consider Remington, Moses, Wyeth, even Marin, American artists, as opposed to Pollock, De Kooning, Johns, and Warhol, who are technicians relying on gimmicks. Thus, I feel that aesthetics is an integral part of art. Sometimes someone has to establish values. As our moral values have declined, our artistic skills have waned. Art does not automatically improve with time.
If we are destined to follow our recent socialist bent of subsidizing every group in the country, let us hope it does not breed the mediocrity in art that the government has generated in other areas.
If the common man will not voluntarily support museums, orchestras and poetry readings, then our culture will continue to deteriorate under the influence of bogus art, much the same as Soviet art and music decayed. A great deal of this "art" reflects our everyday lives. We are living off our accumulated wealth, producing electric carving knives and hundreds of shades of lipstick.
We waste resources, ignore education, stagnate in front of bigger and bigger TV sets and are obsessed with our own looks and status. No wonder we cannot produce works of beauty with the materialistic mentality pervading our egocentric lives.
I hope Mr. Willaman and Mr. Spicka will continue to grow and progress as real artists, but not simply from government grants. I hope they will receive the recognition they deserve from the public. But unless the fine arts community offers some value judgments, the country will continue to be inundated with more and more junk.
R. D. Bush
Incineration vs. Recycling
I am not sure what prompted Bruce W. Piasecki to write from Long Island, N.Y., to promote trash incineration in Montgomery County, Md. (Opinion * Commentary article, "While We Fight Over Incinerators, Landfills Fill Up," April 21).
But we in this state should be careful of his incomplete and misleading presentation of the facts on this crucial issue.
A closer look points all the more clearly to why we need to move away from mass-burn trash incineration and toward reduction, reuse and recycling.