209: The Art of Transformation

Blue Dream, 36″ x 36″, acrylic on canvas

The art profession generates lots of controversy. But recently there has been an increase in articles declaring everything has changed in the art world. Certainly many artists are having to reinvent their careers. Many causes are cited–digital technology cheapening the artistic process, the crash of 2008, new entertainment technology, as well as internet connectivity.

A recent blog post by gallery owner Jason Horejs analyzes a recent article in Atlantic Monthly provocatively entitled The Death of the Artist. It’s an interesting article that articulates a suspicion of many–that the internet has changed what it means to be an artist–and much of the change is not good. The responses were quite interesting–many mentioning that the role of artist has always been changing. I posted a response to the article which I quote here:

The author misses one important idea–that art is a transformative experience. If there is no transformation there is no art. One of the reasons people connect less with art is we no longer have the collective sensitivity to experience subtle transformative moments.

Everyone can make an object or write a story but how many can induce a transformative experience? Those that trigger such experiences are geniuses. But their genius is dependent on perception. This is the missing element in today’s environment. People are conflating entertainment–the pleasing passage of time–with timelessness–the inducement of a transformative state. Such unique states of mind are why people often conflate artistic experience with spiritual experience.

It is not democratization of art that is destroying art but the inability to communicate the subtlety and importance of authentic artistic experience.

It is this ability to transform the viewer–even in subtle ways–that gives art its power. The change we should seek is to encourage more to esteem aesthetic experience–those transformative moments that enrich our lives.

In the communication revolution those who communicate best prevail. It might be a matter of communicating to more people the pleasures of aesthetic experience. But it also might be a matter of physiology. Stehndahl syndrome–hyper sensitivity to art–is experienced by a small percentage of art enthusiasts and suggests a physical component to art appreciation.

The problems faced by most artists could be solved by an expanded art market. Improved communication is the way forward as we attempt to convince others of the transformative pleasures of the visual world.

Brad Teare–January 2015

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Updated: 12th July 2024
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