Art Should Be
Salvador Dalí said
that. He may have been more right than he knew. Of course, Dalí was
no stranger to the idea of appropriating the works of other for inclusion in his
own paintings and drawings. There is the Angelus by Millet, for example,
which appears innumerous times over the course of his career.
He wasn't alone in the idea of selective borrowing, although as artists we like
to call it "reinterpretation." It goes back to the Han and Qu'in
dynasties of China where artisans were called upon as interpreters of works by
the master artists who preceded them. The resulting reinterpretations were
often not even recognizably related to the sources of inspiration.
Thus this basic extrapolation of theme over time whittles the original work to a
basic conceptual core that becomes more macroscopic through each literary or
artistic revision. New elements were added based on the revisionists
personal, political, religious or social inclinations. Oftentimes these
elements were a way of differentiating the rework from its ancestral source, or
contemporizing it to make it more accessible to a modern viewer.
That was around the 8th century. Yet the same concept pops up again and
again in art history. The Romans did the same thing with Greek art. Renaissance
artists were notorious for borrowing and reinterpreting works from neighboring
cities and distant lands. All the way into the 20th century when
Surrealists brought it to its most absurdist conclusions. Dali reached
back a long way to reimagine classical works. Venus de Milo with
drawers. Michelangelo's Dying Slave adorned with a automobile tire.
Warhol doesn't simply reinvent famous works such as the Last Supper, the Mona
Lisa and Picasso's Femme Au Chapeau, he duplicates them as is. Revisionism
as pure reproduction. He had no problem selling them.
Dalí was right. Art IS edible. Standing in my studio looking at
works, I feed off my own ideas. But I feed off others too. Every
artist begins by imitating the artists that strike a nerve. With me it was
Warhol and Magritte. To this day (more than a few decades later) I still
see Warhol's influence as a naturally gifted colorist all over my work.
Some fledgling artists are reluctant to tell you which artists inspire them, I
assume out of fear of being thought unoriginal or potentially uninspired.
I don't think that could be less true or less appropriate.
I see the term "self taught artist" thrown around quite a bit.
It's one of my pet peeves. To create art, one must love art.
In today's world one has access to the great collections of art worldwide at the
press of a button. In that moment when your eyes fall upon a work that
moves you, inspires you, angers you, you are being taught. Never forget
that. I learn lessons everyday. Rauschenburg taught me how to let
loose with my brush (an ongoing lesson I might add), Warhol taught me how to
choose colors that are dynamic. Francis Bacon taught me not to be afraid
to get TOO dark sometimes. Jackson Pollock taught me that sometimes you
can get a little to sloppy.
I've eaten all of their art in one way or another. And so many more that I
probably couldn't even name them all. When I forget where I'm going,
sometimes I go and have a second helping. It reminds me to keep moving
forward. Because it's not copying.
It's not unoriginal. It's inspired.
After all, isn't that what Pablo, Leonardo, Andy and Salvador would have
wanted? For their work to speak? For their work to inspire?
I'm not a self taught artist. I've had one hell of faculty guiding
my hand over these years.