The Purpose of Art

This subject contains so many conundrums that to attempt to address this in a short essay will for sure come up short. But talking about this I think is valuable if only to nudge both maker and viewer away from the status quo and allow something deeper to emerge hopefully.

In my own experience I began making art early on completely enamored by the idea that I could express whatever I wanted in an arena that traditionally accommodated the non-traditional. The larger art world was something that I wanted to be identified with. Walking around with paint on my clothes made me different. Albeit I was still a teenager,but this idea of different meant something and art was the perfect vehicle. The excitement of making things that could be confrontational or question the very notion of what art was kept driving the creative process despite my limited technical skills at that point in time.

As a maker art began to define what was important to me. Different mattered. Expressing whatever I wanted mattered. I always hesitated calling myself an artist because I knew that title was earned and not earned by success but rather by persevering when everything around you said enough, go do something else. I knew I hadn’t been tested despite being on the road. Anyone can make art but that doesn’t make you an artist. Purpose makes an artist and that purpose then goes out into the world on a mission.

Purpose for the maker is commitment to craft and to authentic ideas much like your fingerprint and voice resonance is you. The ‘is you’ is everything for the artist. Until that happens calling yourself an artist is questionable. Commitment to something you care about and eliminating everything else is required. Staying with that commitment in the face of all discouragements and questioning makes you an artist. Ultimately, arriving at an unapologetic expression of yourself defines the artist you might be.

A friend and artist Tom Doyle once said that “if you are having fun making art your most likely not an artist.” I understood exactly what he meant. An artist who has this level of commitment to what they do has a power that others do not. They have the power to move people. To express something at a deeper level that strikes a chord within the viewer that can’t be reached in any other way. It transcends language, culture and most other barriers. This is what I mean when I say ‘there is the appearance of art and then there is art.’ For me, when I see a performance or read a book and it moves me I become so thankful that this person or people had dedicated themselves to what they do. Imagine all of the things we would be deprived of if someone in the solitude of their studio, office, rehearsal space or whatever hadn’t committed to the excellence of what they were passionate about.

As artists we play a critical role in this society and in all others before us. Despite the attempt of politicians, scientists, psychologists and medicine to fix us or lead the way historically it has been the artist who has represented and identified a generation and culture. The times we live in will ultimately repeat the process. The art of our time will define who we were and who we are. Ideas of value use the other fields as our expressions but expression is the thing that lives on. One of the world’s most unique occurrences summed this up best. Picasso declared a profound truth worth spending time thinking about and relating to whatever it is that we attempt to contribute to the continuum of creativity. “The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls”. The ability to reach someone’s soul is it. Purpose. That is what an artist’s life is capable of. What else can be said?

Image: Tom Doyle, Phoenix, wood

in my quest to use the above image to show what in my view is some of the best work in the world I have included one of Tom’s sculptures. I was fortunate to have shown Tom’s work for many years.


Art + Beliefs

While this article relates to art I have seen the principles spoken about apply to everything in life and all disciplines. Whether we acknowledge it or not we live our beliefs. It is a primal manifestation. The deepest beliefs are so entrenched within us that they tend to exist almost invisibly. The repetitive thoughts that churn in our awareness tend to grab our attention and day by day ask us to expend our primary energy there. But just underneath that chatter reside our core beliefs that have the power to open and close doors in our lives. To imprison us or to set us free.

Many will say, ‘I am well aware of my beliefs and I have a good grasp on who I am.’ On the surface this sounds like a good state of mind. In my view, this is the place most of society lives and is comfortable with. Open mindedness and entertaining the thought that maybe there is more than meets the eye might be a place worth considering. A place of ‘I don’t know’.

We enter the world with no beliefs and then begin the process of being cared for. Being cared for opens us to both subliminal and overt messages that are absorbed within us as our very existence depends on it. On our first breath we begin the road of adopting beliefs at such an existential level that as we mature we lose awareness of these because they intrinsically shaped who we think we are. I have found that these beliefs, despite not being in my best interest many times, I defend to the death unconsciously because that is who I think I am and how I was raised.

Choosing to be an artist or whatever it is you are driven to do confronts the status quo within us and the challenge begins. My drive to want to create powered me through self- doubt, insecurity, limiting views of myself and the need for acceptance. The pain of questioning myself and the discomfort of open-mindedness was secondary to this other force that pushed me forward both out of necessity and want.

I struggled in the studio for 15 years before I dared to venture out and entered an international competition that took me 3 years of submission and rejection to finally be accepted in. My discontent pushed me to try. I opened myself to rejection knowing that acceptance couldn’t come unless I did. From that decision I was invited into a major exhibition in NYC that I had always dreamed about being in. From there I was acquired into the National Gallery and one day I realized my beliefs about myself had changed without me even knowing it.

Experience has shown me that true change cannot be constructed. It comes from open-mindedness and the willingness to take another look at oneself when life says it is time. The scenarios that have changed me have come when I least expected. I resist change as hard as I can most times so it is only when something larger than me steps in and I seemingly have no choice that I grow. I know a few things for certain. I can do some things today that I wouldn’t have thought possible before. I know there is a force that pushes us through adversity and change despite our discomfort. I am certain that anything is possible when we take seemingly insignificant moves towards what we want.

It does seem apparent it takes a lifetime to grasp what our beliefs are and to allow that something to shape them into better things for us. I no longer worry about changing myself. Art has been my vehicle to self- awareness. I grow when I least expect it and despite all my efforts to resist it still happens thankfully.


image: Italian artist, Edoardo Tresold

wire mesh is the main material: this work is amazing and check out the link to his site…very cool concepts and execution

The Art of Critique

The Art of Critique

Saturday, June 10, 10:00 am to 1:00 pm

A one day workshop with Tony Carretta

Artist, Gallery Owner, Dealer and author, Tony Carretta is giving this one day workshop. This workshop will focus on both a critique of each participant’s works and explore the art of self-critique.

Each person is asked to bring in 3-4 works to be critiqued and evaluated on execution, concept and presentation. We will also discuss how to critique your own work from a place of non-attachment and objectivity. Gallery concerns, when taking on new work, will also be addressed.


Arts on the Lake registration

Accepting the Imperfect

As artists, as people, as one in a global community we measure ourselves and judge others from a perspective of being able to attain perfection. When things go wrong, as they will, we agonize over our own insecurities as well as how we think the world will judge us. Making a painting, putting together an installation or whatever it is we are attempting to do will always have challenges that are unforeseen and part of the process.

Resisting the expectation of glitches and measuring any effort from perfection undermines our cosmic gift of growth and learning. The why of things seems unanswerable but knowing the intent and motivation of any effort transcends and transforms any unforeseen difficulty we are presented with. There are so many holy scripts that reinforce this idea of compassion for the other and the acceptance of ourselves for exactly who we are.

‘In the world you will have tribulation but be of good cheer I have overcome the world.’ Rejoice in your weaknesses [imperfections] for in them we are made strong.’ Every religion and spiritual practice highlights understanding, compassion and gratitude for what to us looks like a flaw, a mistake, a glitch.

The courage to explore and experiment contains within it the element of imperfection. Edison tried 5000 combinations of things to find 1 that worked. 4,999 failures according to most. He saw it as 4,999 steps to success. Whatever we have a passion to do accepting it all, the good, the bad, the struggle opens us up to a greater guidance that is undeniable and sacred. Every world changing discovery or accomplishment was strewn with challenge and defeat and glitches. But if those brave people hadn’t at least tried then how much less would we all be. But because of their courage on the road to their vision amazing gifts come to others.

Those that we remember and that change history are the very ones who risked, looked like failures, grappled with their own insecurities but pressed on towards the mark despite it all; being driven by something that is indescribable but ultimately divine. In the life of an artist, a scientist or whomever this drive to share something with another is enough and it will find it’s way to those to whom it matters.


Image: Nicola Tassie’s ceramics

The Beauty of Soul

Being an image maker or thought presenter wields great power as history has shown. Generations have been defined by the images and ‘sayings’ that each has produced. Who doesn’t remember ‘where’s the beef?’ or ‘make love not war’. Think of the peace sign and people like Milton Glaser, Andy Warhol, Peter Max, Ferlinghetti, Robert Indiana and a host of others in all mediums who were masters of this skill. The arts have always reflected the society in which they have lived and have simultaneously responded to and led generations.

Contained within an artist’s repertoire are tools of seduction as well as meaning. We can very easily tickle the eye with color, shine, glitz, novelty of all sorts and give the impression of art while in fact it might contain very little of that. There is the appearance of art and then there is art. The modern day world contains both and is sometimes hard to distinguish. The art fair has taken on the modalities used by malls and retail philosophies for the ultimate goal of the sale. Of necessity the best galleries have mastered this form of influence.

But a little beyond that there is an enclave of something else that might be a bit more challenging in both its craft and intended meaning. To me this is the arena of the beauty of soul. It tends not to fit into the accepted showrooms of art but breaths its own life in its own way. While it may challenge and test the limits of our own understanding of meaning and beauty it contains traits and emotional content that is undeniable. I have seen from the gallery side, with my experience with the viewer or collector, that most aficionados of art are looking for something specific to fill a need within themselves. ‘This disturbs me, I could never live with that!’ is one familiar comment. ‘I have blue drapes and this would just fit so well in my room’ is another. ‘I really don’t want anything sad around me so these pieces definitely don’t work for me’ is another. So every exhibit or work of art has filters applied to it. YET when we go to the theater or read a book or listen to music the challenging elements and the fullness of the contrast enhances our experience.

So artists tend to adapt to the market seeking approval, which is a human need, and then develop mechanisms to feed that craving. The beauty of soul disregards the tendency of approval and imposes its own will on the world. Take it or leave it. In this ‘letting go’ is where I have seen the most moving work and in actuality the best people. It takes some effort to find but it is there alongside all of the other stuff we have come to call art. In a politically correct world where authentic ideas can be crushed for not following party lines I find originality and courage of high value. It takes courage these days to be true to yourself knowing that if someone is offended by your work all hell can break loose. But this might be the new price we have to pay for the Beauty of Soul.


image: in my ongoing quest to include notable work as the blog image I have focused on Mexican artist Javier Marin this week. I find his work amazingly compelling both from the making point of view as well as emotional content.

Artist WalkAround w/Kardash Onnig

Next Saturday, June 3rd, 3PM at Wisdom House Chapel, Litchfield, CT we will host an artist’s walkaround through the Transfourming Sorrow installation. Kardash Onnig will discuss the inspiration for this multi-sensory installation as well as take questions from attendees. A lively discussion will be guaranteed and the public is invited to attend.

The Wisdom House link is below with all of the details of the event.

Walkaround Link

Also tomorrow morning at 10:30 there will be a television segment on the installation and the link for live streaming  is also below.