Work in Progress: The Life Cycle of Art
Whether art is written on a bar napkin at 2am or a masterpiece placed behind museum glass, each has a creation, life and death.
Even if they are carefully preserved, the process simply slows down, giving us time to reflect and enjoy the works of art. The probability of time washes away the work we have done, whether it is etched in stone or drawn in the sand. The mortal nature of artwork reflects much of ourselves in this way.
Insparado; where does art come from
The first work of art must be born. This can be done in different ways. There can be a sudden stroke of inspiration, bursting like lightning into everything nearby. Whatever environment is nearby then becomes a vessel for the work of art. A poet will recite the dawn as it appears on the horizon, or the rising moon, impressed by the moment.
A work of art can also be born from the careful and deliberate ritual of the artist. An artist can collect their particular brushes, play certain music in a room dedicated to the creation of their art. The ritualistic aspect of art helps create focus and concentration, allowing the artist to expand in their craft and imagination. This method runs the risk of creating resentment toward the source of any distraction, whether it’s a cat asking for dinner or a loved one interrupting the artistic process.
There are other methods of creating art as varied as the artists who create them.
Artwork is not always finished quickly or completely. After a coat of paint is applied, the artist can step back and plan the next steps. The contours are stretched, then additional layers, and sometimes it is painted and the work starts over. Progress can be slow and artwork can take years to complete. For example, The rose by Jay DeFeo (see below) took 8 years to make and involved 2,000 lbs. of paint. Her method, which could be considered an obsession, involves building up and then removing layers of paint.
Once art is born, it finds its way into human society. It can be given as a gift or displayed for purchase. It can be used as signs, culture decoration or used in trade industry. Digital art, for example, is used for posters, flyers, advertisements and communication. Art can also be used to express social change, anger, injustice, beauty and any other emotion in the human mind. This can be in the form of graffiti, music, spoken word or interpretive dance.
Sometimes a newly hatched work of art crawls from place to place, being sold or traded. Sometimes artworks are hung in one place, pondered and discussed, or tucked away quietly in a dusty corner.
For the artist, looking at their artwork can become painful after a while. Their ability to see and create are often different skill levels. They can see what needs to change, but they can’t do it. Their perception criticizes the pieces and their hands get confused. So the work can hang on a wall and teach the artist through reflection. Even though the work is not what the artist envisions, the artist can grow to accept what he has made. I think part of being an artist is practicing in public, so acceptance and upheavals are part of an artist’s growth and also part of their artwork.
Next is the breakdown of the artwork. This may start immediately, but is not noticeable until the paint has faded or the napkin has disintegrated. Some artists use methods to preserve the work, such as spray varnish on paintings or sealant on paper. Some artists sculpt in stone or create digital images that can last longer. Their files can be copied, their sculptures cast and reproduced. This method really prolongs the decay process, adding many years to the life of a work of art.
For a poet who greets the dawn, words dissolve quickly and disappear in fleeting moments. Tattoos will age and deteriorate along with human skin. Graffiti will also fade in sunlight or be painted over. Fashion will change with the seasons and the styles of yesterday will be deconstructed to make the expressions of tomorrow.
For now, nothing is immune to apathy or neglect. Even if a work of art survives the centuries, society and people change. The important is neglected. What was valued is discarded. When no one remembers why a work was important or why it was placed on the walls of a museum, the work is replaced. There are mountains of unread novels, rivers of poetry lost in the ocean of language, and dark skies of unseen masterpieces.
Nevertheless, all works of art return to the obscure and obscure, appearing no different from the stone from which they are carved or the blank page on which the words are written.
For me as an artist, the temporary nature of artwork makes the process easier, allowing me to play and practice without the burden of eternity. For others, however, their art is a legacy, an immortality they can invest in, a greatness beyond their years. Perhaps it is from this sense of urgency that great works are created to move toward the edge of time, to avoid decay, if only for a moment.