If you have read me and my comments on others blogs, you may know my suspicion of discourses on art.  They may be interesting about the past, but for that artist (the maker) they constipate.  They inhibit.  (And please don’t read into this any suggestion that you should read the rest of my blog posts — and if you tell me you pay attention to my comments, well then I apologize.)

Discourses on art can be destructive.  Painters like Pollock were clearly destroyed by the box that they were placed in by critics' words.  Before Pollock died it was clear that he was moving back toward images.  So too was De Kooning.  De Kooning went forward but Pollock did not.  And then Pollock died.  Sigh. 

Phillip Guston reached a dead end for the same reason, but bravely fought his was back.  The critics pilloried him, but he kept going.  

Brice Marden tied himself into minimalist knots for almost 20 years.  And even now, I bet he would love to draw a large drawing of a nude or a tree.  

To the question at hand, “art photographs art?" my answer is, “who cares.”

I consider myself an artist - but only in the tradition or context of artist as maker.  My primary art is visual and 2 dimensional.  So I draw and paint.  I also take pictures.  My second art is music, but for this I am just the instrument, a bass-baritone voice in a choir.  

In both, my focus has been on learning to use my tools and then to use them.  I won’t bore you with the process, but I consider myself a master of paints.  With photography, I mastered black and white over 40 years ago, studying from 2 established photographers, Gary Winogrand and Arnold Newman.  I stopped taking pictures for 3 decades and only entered the digital world recently and on my own (so no master or even a teacher).  I now consider myself fully capable - and consider my work as able to stand on its own. 

But is it art?  

Again, who cares.

Thus verbiage like this from Susan Sontag:  “While a painting or a prose description can never be other than a narrowly selective interpretation, a photograph can be treated as a narrowly selective transparency.” Sends me running to the hills,  screaming.  

Such words are useless to the maker (artist as maker and craftsman, not god-magician) and to the reader, all these words do is distract from looking.  If you are a serious artist, you may need to pretend to listen to the critic but it is best if you don’t take it to heart.    

If you want to understand what is art, the best way to answer the question is to find a master and ask him or her what he likes.  (By the way, in art school, that is exactly how we learned from our masters - I would speak to Paul Resika about the painters he liked, and he would ask what I liked.  So to when I spoke to Arnold Newman about photography.  Newman loved Atget by the way.

a drawing by Paul Resika

A photograph by Arnold Newman

The single difference that photography has from other arts is that the making is simple, such that there is little difference between a picture that has the same place as a sketch, or another work that is a developed piece.  

Also, photographs tend to need captions.  Even paintings do, by the way.  

So here are the pictures.  Or as Neil Slavin (my basic photography teacher) would say - the pitchas.  

OH ... perhaps the artist used this blog as a pretext to show some new work.  How cunning!

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