The Subjectivity of Art

When talking about art my reference point is always Jackson Pollock. Do I like Jackson Pollock? I never met him, but as for his art, no. So why then do I bring him up? I bring up Jackson Pollock because his artwork was the first time I understood, clear as day, that art isn’t just about the image created. While my understanding of art isn’t that of a scholar, or a practicing artist, but rather a typical middle class kid from Brooklyn who’s attended a fairly small upstate liberal arts school, my understanding of Pollock came to me through music.For those of you unfamiliar with Pollock, he’s the revered (or maybe notorious) painter who covered huge canvases with seemingly indiscriminate streaks and drips of paint.

Anyway, I bring up Pollock because my years of wadding through heavy metal and punk music made me realize that skill and technique weren’t everything. What the Sex Pistols, Misfits or Ramones were doing didn’t require great skill or creativity, but then why hadn’t anyone done this before? It was their approach and how they expressed themselves (just like Pollock) that made them as great (or bad) as they were. As you get further into smaller, more obscure niches of music, the comparison becomes stronger as casual listeners might say “I could do that, all they’re doing is ___.” This is no different with Pollock as I’ve heard “all he’s done is throw paint around, I could do this” too many times to count.

What Pollock was doing was more of a primitive and nontraditional expression of his emotions, a focus on the process and the creation rather than the final appearance. If he was upset, he wasn’t going to paint a picture of some sad lady with cold colors and her head hung low, instead you would get works of incredible volume with layers upon layers of varying splashes of paint made in different ways. Beyond the emotion, there was also the rhythm and process of painting, something that might have been foreign to the viewing audience at the time (maybe still is). It is because of Pollock that I’ve learned to appreciate many works of art, regardless of medium, because of what might have sparked the artist to create it, or to continue making it. Art for me, is no different than music or literature, sometimes the manner in how it is expressed and the intentions behind it create more of an impact rather than the piece itself.

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