Art vs. The Spirit of Art

I was hometown proud to see Adam Lerner featured in the New York Times for his innovative programming at the Museum of Contemporary Art/Denver.

When asked what some of his programming had to do with art, Lerner responded:

“Most art museums want to be professional purveyors of art. . . . But I want to capture the spirit of art, which may be more important than art itself.”

Concrete Floor
Concrete floor I came across, which had pretty darned interesting stuff going on.

Deep Thought Thursday

What is the “spirit” of art?

And is it more important than art itself? How?

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12 thoughts on “Art vs. The Spirit of Art”

  1. Nice thought! I see things like this floor often – rusted metal, worn paint on an old door, etc – and think about the difference a frame and placement in a good gallery would make. It isn’t that different from art – for many it’s easier to trust the opinion of others rather than recognize the spirit of art for themselves

  2. Stacey-Ann Cole

    I believe that the spirit of art is the mood/feeling/aura within which the art is created and the responding feeling that it creates in the viewer.
    As an example, if I’m angry when I’m creating a piece of art I believe that some of that anger will seep into my work and radiate off it. It may be that someone viewing the piece will feel the anger or maybe feel somethings else. But they feel something and that’s what I think the spirit of art is.
    As to whether it’s more important that the art itself, I don’t believe so. I would say that they are of equal importance i.e. the intent/feeling and then the expression of it.
    I am eager to read what other commenters believe the spirit of art is as I’m sure there will be quite different thought-provoking responses!

  3. The “spirit” of art IS much more important than the object manifesting the original intent of the artist. Understanding context within a much wider realm is the “thing”…the “IT” girl. This is the challenge of a goo visual artist – imbuing that intention and spirit into a condensed form for consideration….seeing beyond, connecting the dots and allowing the viewer to find their own way through in connecting those dots.
    Ahhh..the mystery….the challenge….the art of it all!

  4. victoria pendragon

    Like Stacey-Ann, I’m not sure you can separate the two. My art is based on the energy of things so I’ve chosen to incorporate the ‘spirit’ of art consciously, bringing up the sense of the work as I’m working in order to produce the work. But, as Marilyn points out, energy, ‘spirit’ if you will, is everywhere.
    Even as a child I recognized beauty no matter what form it came in and sometimes that was in a windswept tumble of litter caught in a gutter. Not that I expect art to be beautiful always, far from it. I expect art – good art – maybe even bad art – to stir something in the soul of the viewer, that something might be confrontational or it might be stimulating or it might be elevating. The goal, it seems to me is to generate some sort of movement of feeling in the viewer.
    In that regard, the life all around us holds the potential for being classified as ‘art’ as photographers are happy to demonstrate. My spirit is in my art as my life is in my body and so it is, I think, for us all even if what we make is a pancake.

  5. Spirit/Soul comes from the heart of the creator and radiates from the work. It is often about imperfection, the process and not a photo/picture perfect result. I find that work with soul comes from naive or “visionary” artists and a great place to view this work is at the Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore.

  6. Lily Tomlin made her own art of this question in her brilliant Search for Intellegent Life. Her bag lady character Trudy solved it while riffing on Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup print. Art is an artifact of the creator’s experience that transmits that experience to the viewer. I’ve never looked at art, mine or another’s, in quite the same way since…… The rest is materials, technique, and commentary

  7. Wow, Alyson, this is a deep topic for deep thought Thursday!
    I think the spirit of art is what moves the artist and the viewer into some new moment, some new way of understanding or looking or at something.
    I agree with Janice who said, “Understanding context within a much wider realm is the “thing”…the “IT” girl. This is the challenge of a good visual artist – imbuing that intention and spirit into a condensed form for consideration…. seeing beyond, connecting the dots and allowing the viewer to find their own way through in connecting those dots.”
    The spirit of art for the artist is finding their way through the creation of the art piece by connecting the dots that mystery delivers to them while making it. The artist comes up with an idea for a piece. Then the spirit of art works with the artist to create it. Through making the work of art within the context of what they are trying to say/do/create through that piece, the artist is moved into a new way of understanding or looking at something. The mystery of creation is the spirit of art for the artist.
    I think that most artists hope that the viewer of the art feels something when they look at our art. A good work of art will work on the viewer in ways sometimes subtle and sometimes very clearly. The spirit, the mystery, then becomes the actual work of art itself and what that instills in the viewer.
    So, it could be that the spirit of art and art itself is inseparable.
    Furthermore, education of art appreciation is so important for the general masses in order for this [the idea of the spirit of art] to permeate our culture. Perhaps if more people understood the spirit of art behind the work of art and took the time in their viewing of it, the world could change for the better. Or at least, one more art viewer could be touched in a different part of himself or herself than had been touched before. A new awareness of their world would be had. Maybe it will change their life in some small way.

  8. I believe that the spirit of the art is of great importance and without it the artwork would remain only an idea or forgotten. Without the spirit I think that the work is nothing. I believe that the spirit is the creative process coming together with desire. A birthing. Without the birth and desire it seems like it would just be talk or nothing at all. Not sure but these are just words anyhow. Good question. Makes me want to know more about this talk in the article. Thank you.

  9. I carry the spirit of art around everywhere. It is the reason I can see beauty in the color of iced tea, notice the way the light shines through leaves, get sidetracked by a weird set of markings on a rock, see that every car at a stoplight is red, and never run out of ideas or eagerness to paint, draw, or take photos!

  10. I love all these responses! And I “will try” to put into words what I feel “The Spirit of Art” is to me.
    I think that the “Spirit of Art” is what comes from inside, from your heart, from your soul (as I believe someone mentioned above).
    When I use to teach art to children I use to say to them to draw/paint/collage what they feel inside…that there is no right or wrong. It’s a feeling. I use to teach them to look around because there is Art everywhere.
    When walking around I see “art” in so many things that maybe might not be seen in the same way by everyone. I remember walking around Venice…the whole city is “Art”…You can feel the “Spirit” everywhere.
    When I am creating I have to “feel’ it. If I’m not feeling it you can see it in my art.
    You can see the “Spirit” in the process of creating and many times that is more important than the Art itself.
    It’s like a singer singing, you can feel if their spirit is there or not.
    AHHH…Alyson…this is hard to explain but hopefully you get what I’m saying.

  11. Artfulness, aesthetic life, the spirit of art, these things are all essential to good living and to being human, but there is something about MAKING an object that is unique and wonderful and totally human. The process is treasured, but ultimately the process leads, at least in my studio, to an object. Art doesn’t just exist in the mind, but also in physical reality.

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