For some reason the words visual culture puts a bad taste in my mouth. It is labeling the unnecessary. Perhaps that is my artist angst that simply hates labels. Or perhaps it is an ignorance that will evolve through understanding. As an American, I think we struggle with the word culture. We are a mix of many cultures. We are bombarded with imagery. Sometimes it is too much to take, and even more to think about.
...but in my world, I can filter out what I do not want. I have the freedom to choose what I want to spend time seeing. I can go to the museum and choose one artist, or one painting, and I can sit for hours. This is the other part of being American. We have much to choose from and much to arouse us.
I think visual art can be defined as our filter. If we do not see it, then we do not see it. If I visit the museum in my teens, but I do not get Matisse until I’m in my thirties, then it is only then, in my thirties that Matisse is an artist. As a teacher, I see that all the time. I can only introduce and hope that my students are prepared for when they are ready to receive a particular artist.
I am learning that my art history has been shaped by memories, and I am just now able to uncover them and explore them. For example, I have been surrounded by gothic architecture and “greek-like” sculpture my entire life, yet I owned it before I knew it. So my palette has been shaped by this, and I seek these things out with more conviction now. Thus, I consider my own experience with art and art culture to be an excavation. I am hoping someday to catch up. Then maybe I can stand assured in the present.
Until we are confident, we imitate in words and actions. I like it because you like it. I like it because I think I should. It’s art because it is famous. I have looked back on my own work and thought, “I was on to something,” but only in hindsight. It was not until this summer that I started feeling like an artist in the moment. I felt a rush through my body that engaged all of my senses and told me that what I was doing mattered even if only to myself. I wasn’t working for a grade, a show, a critique, compensation... I felt the power of things learned and forgotten culminate through me. I was the vessel. Is that culture? I mean in a larger sense???
Do we need artists to be the bookmarks of our lives? Do we need artists to say IT? Do we need artists to be our collective voice? Because an artist can do that. An artist strike universal cord or a nerve that we did not know was there to be played or explored. That is why art changes and evolves, I think. Because our world changes and evolves, even if we never do or did not want to.