Letter to Dan Ellis

Dan,

Good to hear from you. Hopefully your strategic successes will overwhelm your tactical challenges.

I have included my friend, Ed Lawry, in this discussion, as Ed is not only a storied philosopher, but a scholar of aesthetics as well.

As for Kant. Though it’s likely I live much of his philosophy each day, it’s been a long time since I’ve read him. I am reading mainly fiction and poetry these days. As much as philosophy teaches me, at this point in my life I am focused on fiction and poetry to enrich my understanding, allowing me to break the bonds of analytics.

For Kant Psychological principals would be those governing our thought processes. The laws of cause and affect, for instance, are reflections of the structure of our mind/brain (let’s not complicate things with Descartes for the moment.) We think one thing causes another because we consistently see the first thing occur immediately preceeding the second (constant conjunction), and our mind posits that the first must be the cause of the second. It’s a very happy way of walking around the world without falling off a cliff.

What we don’t really know is whether this way of making sense of the world corresponds to the way the world really is, or if it’s merely a result of the way our mind must, due to the way it’s structured, process our perceptions.

Thus we live our lives ‘as if’ we perceive and understand ‘things in themselves.’

But we can never know ‘things in themselves.’ We only know things as we perceive them. Thus both empirical and psychological principals are based on our perceptions, which may or may not correspond to the ‘real’ world, and thus could never function as a reliable basis of a true demonstrated science.

This brings me to ‘Art For Your World,’ the statement on your website.

I have never thought of the mantra ‘art for art’s sake,’ as imposing such a weighty obligation on the viewer. A freeing of the artist, certainly.

Now I am going to bastardize Descartes. ‘I create, therefore I am.’

One of the great lessons I took from running the gallery is my definition of a true artist. It was a great experience to help so many aspiring artists exhibit for the first time. Most were, as you were at the time, burdened with the unreasonable capitalist imposition of paying rent.

You had to do your art after work, on the weekends, using your sick days that I did not pay you for.

I discovered that some people have to create. Like my beautiful wife Peggy McGivern, they have to physically change the world they live in. This is what I call a true artist.

Many people love art, and many are smitten with the romantic notion of being an artist, or bohemian, or rebel, or don’t like their life.

But a true artist is compelled to create. It’s therapy, exercise, as necessary as breathing, filtering ‘things in themselves’ through the nose hairs of their minds, existing ‘as if’ the cause and effect structure of their existence was malleable, invoking the same instinct to control their world as Kant is trying to understand when he embarks upon ‘The Critique of Pure Reason.’

Is it, as you suggest, a failure of the modern art avant-gard if the artist does not have the viewer in the back of her or his mind when comsumed by creation?

Is the viewer sinning when s/he doesn’t at least attempt to take the artist’s intentions into account?

Maybe we all just owe it to ourselves to contemplate creation; seen, heard, felt, processed, as if…

Give my love to Brenda,

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s