Art Students -- Ubuntu and anyone interested
Dear Ubuntu (and artists all),
I think this speaks somewhat to your question about being a university art student. As is so often the way things happen for me, the question was raised in our conversation, and I stumbled onto this book penned over 50 years ago. I think you should go back in time to 1957 to have this conversation. Take a coffee. You may find that your feelings about academia relative to educating artists to have a venerable tradition in the United States.
Find yourself a copy of Ben Shahn's book, The Shape of Content and see if you don't have one of the most sympathetic and provocative art conversations of your life. I have just begun the book, but it has your name all over it. It comes from the heart of the decade in which the abstract expressionists were shining. And what are some of the considerations facing the artists who were really seeking a creative ideal back then.
Shahn was not an abstract expressionist, but a famous and very thoughtful artist within whom the tenor of the times was dynamic. And based on what kind of art you have been doing, it may give you some ideas that would give substance to why and how those artists you like ended up exploring those visual avenues. This is not a how-to book. But it might kindle something inside you that you're not getting from your teachers in school.
This clearly does not apply to everyone. But it may apply to you.
This is from the first few pages and is merely here to see if it resonates for you. I'm eager to read on, since I have never read this book. But you know when you hit a good one. I'm sure the essence of the book does not lie in the passage below. It's just getting the attention of every art student out there, present or past. So here's a kindred spirit talking.
There is first the question of the educated man; and then I think there is the rather flat fact of which we are all most uncomfortably aware, that our average university graduate emerges from his years of study as something less than an educated man or woman. He is likely to be most strikingly wanting in the accomplishment of perceptivity, in the non-curricular attributes of sensitiveness and of consideration toward all those finer arts which are generally conceded to have played a great part in the humanizing of man. And our graduate is not unlikely to display total blindness with regard to painting itself . . .
. . . It has become obvious that art itself in America is without what might be called a natural environment. Art and artists often exist within a public climate that is either indifferent or hostile to their profession. Or otherwise they may concentrate within small colonies wherein they find a sort of self-protection and self-affirmation. The art colonies are severely limited in the variety of experience and opinion which they can contribute to art. They become almost monastic in the degree of their withdrawal from common society; and thus their art product becomes increasingly ingrown, tapping less and less the vital streams of common experience, rejecting more and more the human imperatives which have propelled and inspired art in past times. By bringing art into the circle of humanistic studies, some of the universities consciously intend to provide for it a sympathetic climate, and one in which there will naturally be found sources of stimulation, of lore, of intellectual material, and even of that element of controversy on which art thrives so well.
Philosophically, I daresay such a policy will be an item in the general objective of unifying the different branches of study toward some kind of a whole culture. I think that it is highly desirable that such diverse fields as, let us say, physics, or mathematics, come within the purview of the painter, who may amazingly enough find in them impressive visual elements or principles. I think that it is equally desirable that the physicist or mathematician come to accept into his hierarchy of calculable things that non-measurable and extremely random human element which we commonly associate only with poetry or art. Perhaps we may move again toward that antique and outmoded ideal-the whole man.
Such, I think, is the university's view and objective in embracing the arts however cautiously it may proceed. But the artist's view must also be considered and the question of whether the university will become his natural habitat, or will spell his doom. This highly debatable point has its implications for all the creative arts within the university, as well as for the artist-teacher, the artist-in-residence, and by all means, the artist-student. . .
"Not a bit is wasted and the best is yet to come. . ." -- remembered from a dream