PROCESS ART MAKING AND THE APPRECIATION OF BEAUTY
Today in my online process art class a student talked about her experience in another process class she was taking. When she asked the teacher if it’s ok to intend to paint something ‘beautiful’ he reassured her by saying… it’s fine to paint beautiful things and do the process work too as long as you know which one your doing. In other words don’t mix the two. I can appreciate how this makes sense from a purely process orientation, however this is where my approach differs.
In my classes I offer a middle ground between Process art making, aesthetic appreciation and dialoging with imagery. We create a safe container grounded in deep listening to help open the intuitive heart. For me our inherent thirst for beauty naturally dovetails with the longing for expressive freedom and spiritual inquiry. The pure process approach has great benefits. As an art school graduate and long time artist the pure process approach opened me to the joy of making art from my child’s eye perspective and brought my awareness to the judgements that held back my creativity and blindsided me to my habitual choices. This training or untraining was invaluable to me but the notion that in itself this approach will lead to your artistic individuation, and fulfilment as an artist is questionable to me. What you may have noticed is that quite a bit of process painting has the look of well...process painting.
Why is that?
Essentially, I believe it’s because of a lack of visual stimulation and exposure to the wide variety of painting modes and movements that most untrained or even trained artists are not aware of. One of my art professors used to say “As an artist you don’t live in a vacuum”. He was preaching the importance of visual vocabularies and aesthetic appreciation of artwork whatever their source from pop culture to ‘outsider’ artists to great masters of the past. We can’t do it all as artists, we pick and choose the influences that appeal to our individual temperament and this can vary over time. Art that does not relate specifically to our work of the moment still informs our aesthetic appreciation and can awaken something in us that could lead to unknown paths down the road.
Unpredictable relationships happen when we see work that is outside our limited purview. We are inspired to grow into ourselves by seeing what others have done in the past, what we like and don’t like. If you’re an amateur or untrained artist, by definition, you have freedom to grow and experiment but a lot of professional artists don’t feel that way by virtue of the marketplace. I’ve always maintained that the amateur stance is much more helpful to creative flow and professional artists can always benefit from dipping into that place of freedom and experimentation.
We live in an unprecedented time where exposure to great art from the past, from different cultures and strata of society are waiting at our fingertips in the computer age. The danger of this availability of images through technology is that we are overwhelmed by brilliant works that can numb our psyches to our own imagination. More likely in this age people are inundated with vapid imagery that erodes aesthetic appreciation. Appreciating beauty is a key element of psychological wellness. If we ignore the gifts of out artistic legacy of handmade art from other times we impoverish ourselves as artists and as a culture.
Your art will thank you!