Artists—To Being Taken Serious Or Not—That is the Question!

For many Americans, art may be defined in a number of ways.  Warhol believed most Americans thought art was first and foremost a person’s first name!  Others feel art is something that looks good on the wall over the couch!  There are some Americans who believe art chronicles both the time and the context of the artist’s life.  There are perhaps a few who still believe that art and artists have a responsibility to express something significant with their ‘gift’ be it beauty, criticism, insight, or some form of thought-provoking insight.  In an interview with a journalist Billy Al Bengston was asked to reflect back on his career as a Southern California artist in the early Post WWII days and express his thoughts.  The artist made the following observation:  “For me, the heyday was in 1959. It was before the Ferus Gallery moved across the street, in the days when Ed Kienholz and Walter Hopps ran it. At that time, art was taken very seriously in terms of being an artist, and not as a profession.”

As art students close to graduating from an art program of study, how do you see art?  What does art mean to you in 2017?  And, what is your role as an artist in the 21st century?

Billy Al Bengston, Venice, 1973

Billy Al Bengston, Sonny, 1961

Author: roberttracyphd

Academic professor at the University of Nevada Las Vegas. I teach theory courses in Art and Architecture History. In addition, I also curate exhibitions on campus as well as in other venues nationally and internationally.

14 thoughts on “Artists—To Being Taken Serious Or Not—That is the Question!”

  1. As a student, I see art as breathtaking or even thinking how much time that artist has put into it. Today art has a meaning of emotional fill to the painting or any object, however, my role as an artist is more to provide a service of design than art itself. Overall, art needs to be more predominant and approached more.


  2. As art has progressed over the years, the parameters that defined it have expanded. No longer is it something purely of aesthetics, or object-based, or set within a few common mediums. Those of us that have studied art have come to see art as ranging from the traditional mediums of painting and sculpture, to things like information systems/installations/performances/happenings/etc. For me personally, I believe that art can be anything that has true emotional, cultural, and creative value to the creator. However, this is a rather loose definition that I think the general public does not buy in to.


  3. When I majored in art at the Las Vegas Academy, I think the main goal for the first three years was exposing us to as many mediums as possible and perfecting our technical skill in each. After learning how to use everything from colored pencil to airbrush, we were prepared to take art into our own hands and combine it with creativity. Sometimes it’s hard for students to get excited about art when it is only drawing still lives and figure studies. Sometimes students only care about technical skill and stop there. After graduating high school, my perception of “good art” changed. We were graded on realism and I thought I was an amazing artist because I could make anything look photo realistic. Later after spending hours on a pencil drawing of my friend, I thought to myself “What’s the point?” I could just take a picture. That is when I started getting into surrealism. I took my technical skills and really tried to push them to another level. Now I try to make art that looks realistic but always include something imaginary or unexpected. My goal as an artist is to provide a momentary escape for people, an alternate better reality. I want people to see my drawings and paintings and be able to imagine themselves there. There are so many horrible things in this world and I want to help people forget about them for a while.


  4. I do personally appreciate art, but as a graphic designer I have a different perspective on the whole art thing. Graphic design is not as flexible as traditional art; there are specific ways of executing projects and often there are rules that shouldn’t be broken, this is not the case with art. I like the aesthetic side of art, and I appreciate art that I can visualize a story from. I will admit that there are times when I see art as strange, eccentric, or unnecessary but that’s just my opinion. Anyways, I think art is all about the viewer and their interaction/experience with the piece. My role as a graphic designer is to be an effective visual communicator.


  5. When I think about art, I think of all the different ways people express themselves. Art is not just when it comes to crafts such as drawing, design, or sculpting. It also can be expressed through instruments, dance, or singing. People like to talk down upon those who think art is a profession, when in reality, it is. The pure creativity and skill of an artist is something not everyone can accomplish, and people will look for those artists to express such skills. My role as an artist is to stand out in my design profession and have the viewer know it was specifically made from me. They can be projects that could inspire others to do the same.


  6. As a student, my appreciation and understanding of art has grown through the progression of the program. I believe that I can form real opinions and legitimate thoughts on pieces when I’m in a museum or exhibition. To me, art is no longer purely aesthetic, but also includes intention, emotion, and technique. The story behind a piece is just as important as the piece itself and I appreciate the ability to recognize that. As an artist in the 21st century, I feel it is important to reach as broad of an audience as possible wile being true to one’s self. To naturally gain fans with original and thought provoking work through a six inch square on a phone’s screen is a rewarding challenge.


  7. Throughout my time at UNLV, I have seen more art than I have in my whole life. I have also met many artists of all kinds of mediums. If there’s anything I can take away from meeting a student who has chosen to take an art program of study, it is that they aren’t doing it just for fun, it is a passion. It is also a way for people to express themselves or relieve stress. Art has so many different meanings to different people but I think one thing is certain; art is about communicating a message. As a graphic designer, communication is vital and I always have to make sure that I get out all the information I need to make sure the viewers understand what I’m trying to say.


  8. Art is expression and communication; it should reflect an emotion and bring about a response or action, especially with the extensive format of technology. This broadened view of “function” crystalized for me after completing my studies in graphic design. Learning about and creating with all visual art forms (painting, drawing, sculpture, etc) deepened my definition of art and will continue to strengthen my creativity.


  9. As an artist who is graduating this semester I view art as a means to influence others especially within the various forms currently available. I believe from my own past experiences I tend to become fired up seeing others art, and I want to compete with them in order to better myself, this is not meant to be said with ill intent, but it’s something I have always done and I can’t help but feel myself improve as I strive to become a better artist. To me, those who I compete with are artists who I believe to have incredible potential and I also want nothing more but to see for them to improve as well. As an artist in 2017, art is important and vital to creating something truly special especially in market full of copycats. Those who truly try to create something special are the ones who will define 2017 and the 21st century just as the Ferus gang had done and those before them as well.


  10. As an art student I have learned to appreciate and understand the concepts and techniques used to by artists to create their work. To an average viewer a piece of work is more or less something on a wall being displayed. Their opinion is either if it that work looks good or bad. As an art student I have learned to look pass aesthetics to understand the artists motive. For example a Jackson Pollock painting, to an average viewer could look like random splatters of paint on a canvas. However, to an art student we can understand that Pollock was a major figure in the abstract expressionist movement and painted on the floor rather than an easel. Details like this has made me appreciate art even more than before, and I feel like it is our duty to share and educate those details with the average viewer.


  11. As an art student semi-close to graduating from the Graphic Design and Media program and now adding the Fine Arts with concentration in Sculptural Practices program, I see art as a way of communication. Throughout my major classes, I think the most important part of what we have learned is how to communicate our message. What are the colors saying? What are the lines saying? What are the words saying? Like, what are they REALLY saying? Different things can convey, well, different things. Dark colors can be translated as sadness or just darkness. Bright colors can feel happy or have a sense of warmth. Harsh lines, soft lines, rough lines, spacing, size, weight, etc… All of the decisions made when creating a piece has to have a purpose in order to best communicate to the viewer what you’re trying to say. Otherwise, they may get a completely different message and you wake up on a Monday morning wondering why you have 50 emails yelling at you about your dark and depressing ad that was suppose to be bright and cheerful. Anyways, graphic design and art in itself is all about communication.


  12. I see art as a way of changing the world. Making your mark upon something that you think needs a change. I see art as problem solving some of the worlds biggest problems. Art is about making something functional as well as aesthetically pleasing. To me art means creation, innovation, identity, value ect. It means to allow the human race to further their existence on earth, while living in a feeling of luxury. For me art is way more then just paint on canvas. It should have meaning, process and problem-solving. My role as an artist today, is a problem-solver. A thinker. Coming up with solutions to the worlds most problematic design problems, all while producing something aesthetically pleasing and easy to use. I am a visual communicator.


  13. To me art means so much. I see it as a way to escape into your mind and let your emotions and thoughts out in a way that others can understand. A lot of the times emotions can’t be explained unless the other person has actually felt them, so I feel that art gives people that explanation for things that just simply can’t be said with words alone. I also think that art brings so much color and life into the world. There are so many things that happen in the world and a lot of terrible events that happen. Along with those, life can become mundane and boring, causing everyone to fall into a dull pattern that creates monotony. Art to me is a way to escape that hole and a way to bring joy into the world.


  14. As a Graphic designer I believe my main goal is more than just making things pretty but I also need to make things functional, practical and efficient. It needs to speak to the viewer loud and clear.
    I truly believe on the merging of science, engineering and art, especially on my field. My favorite Graphic Designer, Massimo Vignelli did this quite well and maybe that is why I love his work so much. Vignelli’s work extended way beyond graphic design; it encompassed consumer products, furniture, clothing, architecture and even the interior of a church. According to Vignelli, the designer’s ultimate objective is not the pursuit of beauty, self-expression or wealth, but rather the forensic application of the guiding principles of design to every project, large or small. I made Daniel G. words my words, my goal as a professional is to be way more than a graphic designer; my goal is to become a visual communicator.


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