Nature of the Beat

Artist, post-modern wannabe, conversationalist, provocateur, introverted extravert… or is that extraverted introvert? A personal blog to share thoughts on faith and art.

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My cat could do that (and may actually have)

 “Real art makes demands”

In attempts to understand complex issues, it is not uncommon nor unreasonable to sometimes reduce issues as part of a larger process to work something out. This can help clarify some things, figure out where pivotal problems may exist, root causes, etc. While it can often be an important part of Minimalism, it can just as easily be found utilized for other, less thoughtful purposes.

Sometimes we settle into a reductionist conclusion from the outset because, well, we may think it obvious or easier. I think this is where we are with much of the discourse of art, especially in the current environment surrounding discussions of government support of art, particularly in the form of the National Endowment for the Arts. Critics of Modern art (whatever one may mean by that, and it seems no two people are actually referring to the same thing) are again emboldened to...

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In the arts, particularly in the arts and faith discussions, even more particularly in the Christian faith and arts discussions, we love to use certain words. The words are quite meaningful, but their constant use actually starts to dilute meaning. Words like Faith, Beauty, Relationship, Art, Love, Gospel, Excellence—we use them all the time, but their applications have become so diverse I truly doubt any two people talking about one of those words will be talking about exactly the same thing.

Take Excellence for example. What do we really mean by Excellence? I know it might seem self-evident, but it really isn’t. The easy assumption, such as in the arts, is excellence in technique. But what technique? Was Mark Twain an excellent grammarian? Is B. B. King an excellent guitar player? Is his technique on par with, say, Andre Segovia?

Okay, maybe we don’t really mean technique in general...

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Art for money’s sake

If you don’t care who sees, hears, or likes the art you create, much less if anyone gives you money for it, you aren’t trying to make a living as an artist.
That doesn’t mean you aren’t an artist, but when you decide that you want to make a living with your art, things change. Sometimes drastically, sometime subtly, sometimes so subtle you may never even notice until rent comes due or groceries need to be shopped.

At some point you realize that what you are doing is work as much as it may not even feel like it. Art becomes your job, even as you may love doing it. Or you may hate doing it for pay, but you can’t imagine doing anything else.
Sometimes we may be trying to create something that has widespread, popular demand. Sometimes we may be aware that we may be working for a more limited audience. Sometimes we are just experimenting. There is value in all that.

This is not to say you...

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Make sh*t. Just do it.

I want to make sure my message is clear about art and art making. Just make art. Just do it. I don’t care what you think of what you make, I don’t care what other people think of what you make. There is no such thing as failure, only education. Which is to say you can only learn by doing when it comes to making things.

There are lots of reasons to do so, which is what I try to explore and examine. All the prognostication and contemplation about art I partake in is only about understanding art metaphysically and how that may or may not affect our individual and communal physicality and spirituality.

I do think that stuff is important because inevitably the questions about art’s importance, relevance, utility, and sustainability come up, particularly in the spheres I operate in as a professional artist. At that level of discourse you can’t sit back on justifying, explaining, or...

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Think of the exposure!

As a working artist I am, just as many of you are, often contemplating how much I should make, why should people pay me, why society should value and pay for art… or not. I understand the frustration when my fellow artists lash out at the people who ask us to do something for free or for the promise of “exposure!”. Do people really not value me or my work when this is asked of me?

As most things in life, it is never as simple as that. There are other things going on, some I’ve written about or discussed before. Some I have been thinking about after reading other people’s thoughts. Things like how difficult it is to quantify art (Is Art History a “soft” subject?) or since art is more emotion centric it isn’t as valuable as more “intellectual” pursuits (Art isn’t free. Can we stop pretending it is?“. You know, that whole rational/irrational, reason/emotion dichotomy so much of our modern...

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Art’s worst enemy

 Artists are often the arts’ worst enemy and the true Internet of Things.

We have met the enemy and he is us.

The Internet Age has brought about one aspect of humanity that we may have never realized we all share—the ability to be outraged at the drop of a hat. This is the real problem at work here. What the Internet helps is not only being collectively outraged at essentially nothing significant, we can also express this outrage instantly, without even giving it a second thought.

That is a real problem, too, not giving these things a second thought, much less not much of a first thought.

Christians love to cry “foul”. No matter how many churches (as in the buildings), both active and inactive, litter a landscape[*], we somehow find comfort in behaving like we are a repressed minority, battling for our very endangered existence.

We find slight in the slightest things—such as...

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The irresistible gravity of the mean

From here to there in one easy step.

Mean: “In statistics, the mean is the mathematical average of a set of numbers. The average is calculated by adding up two or more scores and dividing the total by the number of scores.”

“The mean is just one type of measure of central tendency.”

I’ve long had this theory—I’m sure I’m not the first—that culture and creativity has these moments where equilibrium sets in and our art, music, choreography, all our creative endeavors, including less obvious things like interior design, architecture, and even fashion design, settles in to this groove. There is a gravitational force of average that becomes nigh on impossible from which to break free. Sometimes it is at a local level, or it might be a genre or discipline specific level. Sometimes it is because we may be honing a particular voice, we aren’t yet finished what we want to say in our chosen...

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I was listening to Theatrical Outfit’s artistic director and actor Tom Key speak at a Q&A after a performance (a one man play on C. S. Lewis) he gave for RZIM’s Summer Institute gathering, Believing Again and Again: Story telling and the Gospel, this year in Atlanta. (That was a mouth full!)

Mr. Key points out that it never seemed to bother Jesus when his chosen art form was misunderstood and no one “got it”. He didn’t think “Wow. I should find another way to speak so people understand me better, just get to the point”. He continued, even chastising the disciples for not understanding.

Does that ring true with any of you artists out there? I thought so.

Does that point a finger to those who seem to dislike any art they “don’t get”? It better.

Hopefully just some encouraging words to my artist friends out there who seem to have difficulty being understood. What would Jesus do...

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How to change the world

Something hit me very hard once, thinking about what one little man could do. Think of the Queen Mary—the whole ship goes by and then comes the rudder. And there’s a tiny thing at the edge of the rudder called a trim tab.

It’s a miniature rudder. Just moving the little trim tab builds a low pressure that pulls the rudder around. Takes almost no effort at all. So I said that the little individual can be a trim tab. Society thinks it’s going right by you, that it’s left you altogether. But if you’re doing dynamic things mentally, the fact is that you can just put your foot out like that and the whole big ship of state is going to go.

So I said, call me Trim Tab.
— Buckminster Fuller

A very thoughtful person I once met could convincingly and rationally argue that everything we do, think, and decide is predetermined by either nature or nurture, that free-will is at best an illusion, at...

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What not to write about

I won’t lie. Sometimes writing about art and creativity, and especially faith and art, can be frustrating. One is never sure of making a difference or that anyone cares. Indifference is the artist’s worst enemy. You would think it would be detractors. It isn’t.

Although, when people activley, even aggressively, DON’T care, that (for me) creates a different set of problems. It’s frustrating enough when people seem to miss the point, but some aggressively miss the point. I don’t mind that, but it puts me in a spiral of getting stuck with how well I may or may not be communicating. All the same I do love hearing from people, whether or not they agree with me or like what I have to say.

I also hate repeating myself. I hate writing about the same topic without at least some new perspective or information (or using the buzzword du jour, “data”). A lot of people make a pretty good living...

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