PERSIST 4: In Praise of the Creative Spirit in a World Gone Mad with Commerce

Fourth installment of a series from Peter Clothier’s book:

ON BEAUTY Never Surrender

The Merriam-Webster definition of beauty: the quality or aggregate of qualities in a person or thing that gives pleasure to the senses or pleasurably exalts the mind or spirit.

Has beauty become a dirty word in the art world?  According to Clothier: “In the lexicon of then current art lingo, beauty was pretty much taboo.  You could say it as much as you wanted so long as you didn’t really mean it.”  Today I find the word to disturb artists if used in the context to describe art.

Has beauty forced artists down commercial paths they fight but must travel for money?  Clothier states that advertising has consumed today’s art culture.  For example: “No wonder so many of our younger artists have been reduced to ironic shadowboxing with the power of the media.  No wonder they feel the need to stick a finger in the eye of a culture that worships glitz and glamour.”

Beauty, art and money fights for the artist’s attention.  It can either guide or derail their art process.  If a viewer finds my art beautiful, I find myself feeling indifferent.  Struggle replaces the romantic notion of being an artist and each piece is made not out of beauty but necessity.

What’s your definition of beauty?


What responsibilities must a critic carry?  Clothier: “In writing reviews, I thought, I should really carry that responsibility and live up to what I thought a critic out to be: a person with extensive knowledge of his subject, possessed of a discrimination above the ordinary, having a sound theoretical aesthetic base from which to make – and justify – his judgments, and familiar enough with the art of writing to put his thoughts down with precision and clarity.”

Finding the confidence behind your opinion is difficult.  There will always be support and repercussions.  Develop, organize, rewrite and reflect upon your arguments often.  Finally make a decision and commit.   Repeat and you might change your perspective.

Years ago, I read a book about the artist Esteban Vicente.   He discussed how every bit of new knowledge collects above the old.  In reference to his earlier classical training, he could never go back because time had ultimately changed him.   Clothier: “More often, no sooner do I learn something new than I forget it.”  With every grain of knowledge we become specialized and the basics fade.

Clothier compares himself to a translator.  As an artist, I like to think of myself as a facilitator of creativity.   All terminology that will be decoded and judged by our critics…

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