Art and Words

I’ve long thought of art as a visceral experience.  Stand in front of it, open your eyes, and you can’t not see it.  But language is entirely different.  Effort must be made.  Meaning must be pushed through a screen of words, like Play-Doh through a Fun Factory.  It comes out the other side and coalesces into more or less the same shape, but something is always lost, or changed.

Stephen MaineHP12-0402
Stephen Maine

I like to write.  I like searching for just the combination of words that will convey what I mean with precision but also ease and fluency.  And I know that art critics are going through the same process when they write, but I have a lot of trouble understanding the more academic ones.  Perhaps I just don’t know enough of the insider jargon that exists at the core of any specialty.  I don’t understand surgeons when they talk amongst themselves, or pilots, or software engineers, either.

SVA faculty member/artist/writer Stephen Maine addresses this issue in the new edition of the Brooklyn Rail, with far more precision and fluency than I can.  His article, “Discourse ≠ Art” is all about the difficulties of discussing art – of applying words to art and hoping to create understanding.

Stephen MaineHP12-0505
Stephen Maine

You should read the article yourself, but I am happy to report that it persuades me that good art conversation does not stray far from the art in question, and that good writing communicates better than bad.  That should be obvious to all, but it isn’t, and this article is both an excellent example and a much-needed reminder.

Please let us know what you think.