What is the Purpose of Visual Art?

Artist and Model, by Eric Wayne.

The purpose of science is to explore the universe, make discoveries, and bring back evidence: and the purpose of visual art is to explore the visual imagination, make discoveries, and bring back evidence (visual evidence).

Maybe a more goofy analogy would be more direct and memorable:

You are the Captain of the Art-ship Enterprise, and your job is to boldly see where no person has seen before, to explore the visible imagination, and to bring back visual proof.

If that is still not obvious enough, consider it from the audience angle. When I see art I often want to see something I haven’t seen before, and that is interesting. But I mean SEE, not think about. Duchamp’s “Fontain” gives me nothing new to see at all. That’s not visual art, it’s conceptual. Yves  Tanguy gives us something new to SEE.

How painfully obvious that is to me, and yet how utterly disregarded. When you look back at ancient civilizations, what most gives an impression of the level of sophistication of their society? I’m sure there are several contenders, but art has to be tied for the most. The beauty of Egyptian hieroglyphics impresses (me at least) far more than the often plebeian information they portray. You know instantly by looking at those images that a very intelligent civilization produced them. One that understood beauty. And in the same way we might judge the artifacts of an alien civilization, if, for example, we discovered a crashed spaceship on an asteroid (sci-fi movie fodder). Would we find something in that ship that could be “visual art”, and if so, how would we recognize that as art apart from everything else? That’s a separate question, but if there was something that we could recognize as visual art, we would have an idea about the civilization.

Someone upon hearing my answer to the question of the purpose of visual art asked, “Does everything have to have a purpose?” That’s a bit too broad. I wasn’t talking about the purpose of everything, or of each thing, but just of visual art. To answer his question, which was a borderline non-sequitur, I just tossed back the logical response, “Does everything have to be purposeless?” To answer my question, the purpose of visual art is to explore and expand what can be visually represented. That’s one way of stating the obvious. There’s other ways of articulating the same meaning.

In  the past I’ve characterized the quest of visual art to unravel the edges of the collective imagination. We could say that it’s to discover the previously unimagined. And this is taking place in the visual form, not the audio (that’s music)… I’ve said the goal is to see the unseen. And that is also to provide the unseen to others, to manifest ones own inner vision in visual form. It’s a bit like science in which we might say a primary goal is sheer discovery, in which case we may not know the value of what’s discovered until it is discovered.

Still not convinced? Would you agree that the broad purpose of music is to explore and expand what we can create musically? What are the alternatives? To NOT add anything to our collective musical repertoire? How about to do nothing musical and call it music merely because it can be heard? Surely if you wrote a novel you’d want to add a bit of your own unique experience and vision. If visual art isn’t the exercise of the visual imagination, what the hell is it?

Here are some other things people think visual art is for:

  1. To make money: This is low-hanging fruit, but allows us to slice off multiple wrong purposes. For one, if there are other and especially better ways of making money, than art would have no unique purpose. It’s nice if art makes the artist money, but art has an independent purpose and there are far more reliable ways to make money (even working for Burger King, which I’ve done).
  2. To bring about social change: This has the same two flaws as making money, above. There are effective ways to bring about social change (direct protest, voting, making documentaries, writing…), and art must have a unique purpose that doesn’t make it subordinate to another. Further, nobody loves art for social change unless they like the change the artist has in mind. There’s a guy out there arguing for a “white homeland”, which would constitute “social change”. But we can be pretty sure that art advocating a “white homeland” would be hated by the art community in general regardless of what it looked like. Thus, art for social change completely subordinates art to the cause, whatever the cause is, and it has to be  the right one for its audience or the art is worse than worthless.
  3. To change the way we think about art: This already has the problem of the word “think” tucked into it, which is better handled by philosophy or just a good argument. Yes, this is probably what was considered the most important function of art in the 20th century, but this presupposes that what we think is more important than what we see, and in the terrain of the visual. This paradigm is so damned popular that it will probably help if I give an easy analogy. If we are going to talk about what a great work of music is, it should primarily revolve around the experience of listening to it, and not be because of ideas it gives us to ponder. Again, philosophy is just so much better at doing that. Additionally, this view usually applies to conceptual art, or art in a general way that encompasses all artistic pursuits. Here I am just talking about visual art, which is about as broad or specific as talking about music. The perspective that holds as most important ideas values what we think about visual art more than the experience of viewing it. Fail!
  4. To express yourself: Well, yes, but this would apply to all other art forms as well, so isn’t unique to visual art.
  5. To provide an outlet for the imagination: Same as above – applies to all art forms – and definitely an impetus for me. When I used to play the guitar (badly) I might pick it up when I had that urge, and sometimes I composed music on the computer. But usually I will work on imagery, and often it is to exercise or quel that very strong urge to creativity.

That’s probably enough examples. I’m sure readers can come up with more. And it should also be apparent by now that I am arguing something so obvious it hardly needs to be pointed out. And that is true until you consider how much of the art we hold as the most important does not explore the frontiers of the visual imagination at all, but flatly rejects it. Further, art that DOES expand the visual repertoire of our species is often dismissed out of hand as automatically inferior or antiquated in comparison to art which rejects attempting to do anything much at all in the realm of the visually possible.

In my art education through the Master’s level, Andy Warhol was always championed and I never heard anyone challenge his reign. But did he really add anything at all to what was visually imaginable, or did he merely move already extant commercial imagery and techniques into the fine art realm? Now we might consider a Brillo Box AS art, and change the way we think about art, but we haven’t really seen anything new.

This art, and so much more, is not about seeing something new, but about looking at something old in a new way. It does not contribute anything to what is visually possible, but rather expands what we consider possibly art. His silkscreens, also offering little new, had more flair, admittedly, but were still essentially a commercial art vision recontextualized in a fine art context. Whether this is important or valuable as art is another question, which I won’t attempt to address here. I am merely pointing out that it’s not adding anything new to the visual imagination.

The same goes for so much of the most popular and successful art, from Koons to Hirst to Richard Prince. You may have seen Koons’ latest piece, which is a giant ballerina based on a small figurine by a Ukranian artist:

Not only did Koons add nothing much to the original figurine (other than making it an inflatable within the already established parameters of inflatables), the original goes nowhere outside of very well established traditions. There’s something new to sell here, and I read there are smaller wooden copies or some such utter tripe as part of the marketing promotion; there’s something to talk about; but the visual imagination of the human species has not been explored in the slightest.

If you’ve gone to a more (self-proclaimed) radical art college, like me, you may have had the experience that anything and everything other than exercising the visual imagination is held as automatically superior as art, and even visual art. The imagination itself, if it were to issue from the unconscious, dreams, psychedelic experiences, and so on would be basically dismissed unless it could be wrangled into a fully conscious, cerebral, conceptual or political statement via an artwork which largely served as a prop or vehicle with which to make that argument. Visual art is primarily examined through conscious, verbal arguments, which is a pretty dire mistake. That’s like debating food based on recipes rather than eating the meals. Nothing against intellectual wrangling about various topics, but, that’s not what I call the experience of listening to music, or of looking at visual art.

There are many ways one could explore the visual imagination, whether it’s subject matter, handling of mediums, content, and combinations thereof, and for different ostensible purposes. I am merely arguing that visual art do something original visually. I DO appreciate a nicely painted bowl of fruit – in rich oils and a traditional style, mind you – and would hang it in my kitchen, but I wouldn’t bother to make one myself. It’s more of the same and is it just me or do you kinda’ think the purpose of life is to expand ones mind, awareness, understanding, and become more conscious and wise? The alternative is to become less aware, duller, less understanding.

Let me throw out a couple examples of obvious art that explores the visual imagination. H.R. Giger comes immediately to mind, whether one likes him or not (think he’s a perve or sexist or clichéd, etc.) because he invented a biomechanoid universe that once seen, can’t be unseen, and wouldn’t have existed without his Earthly incarnation. Here’s one of the first images I ever saw by him, when I was a teenaged boy (and, yeah, this is stuff teenaged boys totally dig):

And here’s another one from the ELP “Brain Salad Surgery” cover:

There are tons of other examples I could have chosen by Giger, but I chose these two because I know I spent some time looking at them (it helped that one was in a book and the other was on the cover of an album I possessed), intrigued. I’d never seen anything like them before. I wouldn’t list Giger as among my favorite artists, though I think I might need to reconsider that bit of snobbishness. Even in High School I was surprised when my drawing teacher said Giger was a “genius” (a term I dislike). At the time I thought that was a bit superficial. Wasn’t he supposed to be talking about Titian or Picasso or somebody? One of my High School drawing class friends who loved Giger and said it was because of his pornographic drawings I thought was a moron. For me it was the futuristic depiction of long decay. The eroticism was perhaps not 100% as blatant as it is to me now. However you slice it, Giger’s vision is unique, and contributed to the collective visual imagination of our species.

Another prime example on the far other end of the spectrum is Van Gogh. In his case it’s not an imagined future in which technology and decay are interwoven, but peasants tilling the soil in broad daylight. It was the manner in which he painted his subjects that make Van Gogh’s paintings unforgettable.

Among his many achievements, Van Gogh, more than anyone else before, made paint PAINT. When you look at one of Vincent’s many paintings of sowers, above, you know you are looking at a painting, because you can see all the strokes and the thickness of the paint. The canvas is encrusted with scintillating paint, and the light which the mind tricks us into seeing as shimmering in the pure blue of the field simultaneously refutes the materiality of the paint by insisting it is LIGHT.

Detail of just a portrait of a humble peasant that has powerful presence.

This is not one thing or the other, paint or light, but both, magnificently, simultaneously. Van Gogh and Giger have very little in common that I can see, but both opened a window in the mind of the human to a new visual vista that wouldn’t exist without them. Take away these two guys, and we wouldn’t live in the same visual universe. Take away Duchamp, Warhol, Koons, Hirst, Prince, Wool and the rest of the appropriationists and the world would still look the same, but we’d have less to argue about in terms of what is or isn’t art, and actually some pretty fine examples of extant visions. Koons’ Balloon Dog is a bright shinning example:

That is a newish object in reality. Rather superbly executed, I might add. But I am not looking into a new universe, but rather at a new object in quotidian reality. Mostly what we take away from this Balloon Dog is that it’s clever, and perfect. We might admire it for a few minutes but it’s also kinda’ sickening in a way, like eating cotton candy (I’ve actually never tasted it because it looks so repellent to me). A show of Koons’ high-polished chrome balloon sculptures is gaudy as all fuck, and is as painful on the eyes as is listening to one of those Greeting cards that plays music when you open it. Those things make me wanna’ scream. Maybe they’ve improved by now, but you probably remember the ones where each note sounds like a dentist’s drill, with no modulation, no subtlety, just the correct notes in the correct order. Even thinking about them makes me kinda’ angry.

You may say something like, “Who cares about Van Gogh or Giger, they are just typical painters, and there are so many new ways of making art”. True-ish. Painters but not typical ones. It’s really hard to do something original with imagery. But, yeah, there are tons of other ways of making art, and I’m all for it. One of my sculpture teachers, Charles Ray, once filled a box, I think it was marble, with Pepto-bismol. I forget how many gallons of the stuff he needed. I find that funny, clever, and I wanted to see it. What does that much Pepto-bismol look like? I have no problem with all the new ways of making art.

Found it. I like this sorta’ thing, too, but it’s not really visual art.

My problem is with the attempt to extinguish the visual imagination, and I need look no further than much of my own art education to see that in action. There’s been a century long war on the visual imagination led by the crusader for the cause, the avowed anti-artist Marcel Duchamp, who gave us a urinal. People who don’t recognize that this was a prank (and a good one) need to look at how sloppily he painted the mock signature, “R. Mutt”. But the point is that “The Fountain”, as that piss pot was cleverly named, was a flat denial and repudiation of the visual imagination, and THAT has been celebrated as inherently superior to anything the visual imagination of the human mind can conjure for over a century now.  To be more accurate that’s a current revisionist version of art history, and for a goodly portion of the time Duchamp was rightly considered a minor artist making comments about art on the periphery. But nowadays, he is the GOD of art and people have compared his urinal to Michelangelo’s painting on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. I can dig up the quote if you don’t believe me. Believe me though, Duchamp has been compared to da Vinci as well.

A war on the visual imagination is the same as a war on music. Somehow you can have any and every new form of art-making and nobody, unless he or she is a complete asshole, is demanding that music be eliminated, or thinks music is challenged or sidelined by it. Music is in another category. And yet, somehow, painting is lumped in with every new kind of art, such as performance art, video, sound sculpture, text art, installation art, and hybrids thereof. On top of it painting is considered, in general, inferior to all these other types, where music doesn’t have to compete with them at all. I’ve talked about that at great length elsewhere, and how peculiar it is (y’know, performance not relating to theater, and video not relating to film, but to painting), but here I just want to remind people of the forgotten thing which is the visual imagination.

For a metaphoric century we’ve been denying and stomping on the visual imagination, and now I think some of us see that as rather stupid when we should be cultivating that imagination. That is, after all, the goal of visual art – to cultivate the visual imagination.

You can get nit-picky and whatnot in the comments section, and I mostly reply. I’m trying to keep it brief here, so didn’t address things like whether Pollock adds to the visual imagination (yes) or if there is a hierarchy of art (there is but I don’t support it). If you disagree and are polite, we can even have a bit of a debate.

~ Ends


Oh, yes, of course, as a visual artist, the above is what I try to do. Here are some better examples of said attempts. Lots of people prefer works I didn’t include here, and I left out all the B&W ones. But here are 25 images I propose offer something new to the collective visual imagination:

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If you want to see any more of my art, or more about any of these pieces, you are or should be reading this at my blog, in which case it’s very easy to navigate and it’s comprehensive. Last I checked I had over 50 articles on art-criticism, for example. And there are lots of close-ups, process, interpretation, and so on about my art.


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15 thoughts on “What is the Purpose of Visual Art?

  1. Is there a “goal” of visual art? I’m going to disagree. I think what you’re really getting at here is the value of visual art. Visual art would not exist except for the artists who have a need to express themselves in a medium they are reasonably talented enough to manipulate – whether they can sell it or not. There can be a goal for the artist but not the “art.” The whole system, however, is based on the commercial viability of the product. It can be commercial if it appeals to a general audience (those looking for colors that match the sofa, in which case something tonal or abstract, or perhaps dancers on a beach with a butler holding an umbrella floats your boat), or you are reasonably well connected to people who have a lot of money and the artist can make a name for himself which can lead to investment to be traded away later for an even better investment. Is the artist “talented?” It probably doesn’t matter whether the art is pedestrian or groundbreaking. It is at the urging of the medium (not the paint, but the advocate observer) that determines the value – – monetary or intrinsic.

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    1. Hi Dara: You boldly assert that you disagree with me. Let’s see what you have to offer. Oh my god it looks like you argue that the marketplace determines the value of art and it has no purpose of its own. This is not going to go well for you.

      You state that there is no “goal” of visual art and I am instead probably talking about “value”. Well, no. I am talking about the broad purpose of visual art to be to expand the visual imagination of the collective human consciousness. It’s such a broad statement that it’s quite hard to understand it and still object to it. If I were talking about the “value” of visual art, I would say something similar, because they are intrinsically related. The purpose of visual art is to expand the visual imagination/universe and the value is to have ones visual imagination/universe expanded. It is to become more visually aware and enriched.

      You say, “There can be a goal for the artist but not the “art.” Is this like saying they can be a goal for a chef but not for her food, because food isn’t even conscious? If so I agree. If you are trying to say that the artist must have some goal outside of art in order to make art, than I completely disagree.

      You state, “Visual art would not exist except for the artists who have a need to express themselves in a medium they are reasonably talented enough to manipulate”. You DID read my article and my section on a purpose of art being the artist expressing his/herself, in which case you are correcting me with something I already explained away. Again, that could be said of any art form, and the purpose of visual art must be unique to visual art.

      Next you go into the territory of money, which is the first thing I dismissed.

      You state, “The whole system, however, is based on the commercial viability of the product.” No, absolutely not. First, the “system” is irrelevant. Second, the “viability” of the art is inherent, and not determined by what someone is willing to pay for it. If this were the case than Van Gogh’s art would have been absolutely worthless in his lifetime. His art would only come to have value, and extreme value, when others became convinced it was marketable. In this case the artist’s vision is irrelevant, and it is up to the audience and particularly buyers, only, to decide what in the world is good art. Had Van Gogh’s ourvre been tucked away in the late 1800’s, never to be seen again, than by your logic he would never have created anything wothwhile in his lifetime. Is that what you really think?

      Please check what the highest grossing movies are and see if they are the ones you consider the best. They probably aren’t.

      You then go on to say, “Is the artist “talented?” It probably doesn’t matter whether the art is pedestrian or groundbreaking. It is at the urging of the medium (not the paint, but the advocate observer) that determines the value – – monetary or intrinsic.”

      You are arguing that the buyer determines the intrinsic value of art. And you aren’t a troll, I take it. History has shown the buyer to be irrelevant, and the same goes for the system. It doesn’t matter who published which novel, for example, or how many copies it sold (quite often the best novels were the hardest to get published). THAT does not determine the intrinsic merit of a Joseph Conrad novel. That just shows how well people understood or appreciated or wanted it at the time, and if art is complex, it may not be the most popular, which is what your market value mostly assesses. Look back at history and you will find that the market was often stupid as could be.

      You might as well say that the value of a scientific discovery, say that the Earth revolves around the sun and not the other way around, is determined by how people react to it, especially the church.

      You seem to have a complete follower’s understanding of art and don’t trust or have your own true barometer, otherwise you wouldn’t leave the value of art to someone other than your own perception, and to the degree you understand anyone’s art, you are deferring to his or her perception, which is always going to be paramount. If you decide that “King Lear” is a great play, it’s because it is, and that’s because of Shakespeare, not YOU. But if you can’t even decide for yourself and you say that the market decides than you have no opinion, no judgment of your own, and no enjoyment. Why the hell bother with art at all? Oh, yes, it is a business. I can’t imagine understanding art less than you’ve illustrated in your comment. Wow! Incidentally, your human value is, by logical extension, determined by your assets in a spreadsheet.

      You are arguing that art has no intrinsic merit, and its value is only determined extrinsically by buyers. The same would obviously go for music. And even as a child I could have told you otherwise because the songs which were valuable to me were the ones I liked and that resonated with me.

      If someone asks you that classic, “Beatles or Stones” do you have to look up sales? Some of my favorite music is extremely unpopular, and that’s because it is original and complex. Well, if you are right, than Michael Jackson is the best musician of the 20th century. Congratulations at your discovery.

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      1. Oh Eric, you seem to not have read my comment, which you invited. I didn’t comment to be demeaned. I can’t imagine why you read my reply that way, I thought I was pretty clear….artists don’t paint for money, they paint because they have to. To be sure, I will never comment on your blog in the future, and no, I am not a troll. I’m an artist, with a blog, and my name is not Dara.

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        1. Hi Dana: If you start off telling someone that you disagree with them and that what they are really talking about isn’t what they think, but something else, you might expect that the author will defend his original position, in which case your own overt opposition will be inevitably turned on you. You should have been aware of that risk before typing, “I disagree with you”.

          You argued that art is a “product” and its intrinsic value is determined by the market. I maintain that such as view is absolutely wrong, an insult to art, and misses the point of art entirely. As I said in my post, which if you’d read it with a half open-mind, while some artists DO make art in order to express themselves, this is common to ALL artistic mediums and therefore cannot be the unique purpose of visual art.

          If you are not up to a reasonable debate, perhaps you shouldn’t attempt to start one, or just toss in a stone.

          If you are upset that I defended my original position and dismantled your attack, perhaps the problem isn’t really me, or my blog, but your lack of familiarity or skill at rational discourse.

          I welcome reasonable debate, but, hammering home cliches from business 101 and getting all upset and trying to make me into some bad guy doesn’t really add much to the discussion, in which case your absenting yourself from the discussion, my blog, my art, and my life is up to you, and if that’s the way you feel, I welcome your decision.

          But I do wish you the best. And as an artist you might take heart from what I say, which is that YOU are more important than the audience or the market, and your job is to cultiviate your visual imagination and understandking, to use that to explore the visually imaginable universe, and for you to bring back artifacts of your discoveries to share with the rest of us.

          Or you can stick to thinking artists just express themselves like it’s therapy, and really it doesn’t matterif they are talented or not, but just you know, if it sells it’s good. Up to you.

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          1. Excuse me….I’m really very sorry that I commented on your blog. I understand that you have a master’s degree in art and are infallible, likewise, those that disagree with you need to have “a good talkin’ to.”

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  2. I guess the purpose of art is going to be different for artists than the viewer. I think your answer of expressing your imagination visually is pretty good. For the viewer they may say they want to be taken away, or shocked or get some emotional feeling from the work, but those are reactions from the work. For the artist the process of creating is often more important than the finished product. The best advice I have for artists is to stick to your vision, assume that you will never be famous or make money at it. If your ok with that and still need to create then you just might be a real artist.

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    1. Hi Matt: Basically agree. Just want to clarify a couple things. It’s not just expanding your individual imagination, but the human visual imagination alltogether. Francis Bacon expands MY visual universe, the universre of what is visually imaginable in and through human intelligence and creativity. The world would not be quite the same without Bosch. So, I am just addressing a very, very broad purpose. Kind of like my science analogy, in which the purpose is to make new discoveries and add to the cumulative knowledge. But in the case of art the knowledge is of a different kind and order. We may define our lives more via the art we know: music, movies, paintings, and so on, than through the facts or beliefs we know.

      So, what the audience takes away from it, if they are receptive, I think is very often what the artist intended, and in the broad sense (of which there are endless sub-categories) this is to add to their visual or audio universe…

      When I took a music appreciation class there were all sort of explanations of music, but, I knew that the real test of whether or not I understood a piece of music is if I genuinely liked it. If so, I got it.

      For a convenient example, there’s an old song by Jethro Tull that I love called, “My God”. Well, I love the beginning acoustic guitar alone, before it even rocks out like mad. But I can’t explain WHY I like that guitar bit, why I hang on each note and chord and whatnot. I don’t have the musical vocabulary to analyze it. Further, when I used to play guitar and one time I play “My God” (not myself but the actual song), my girlfriend at the time said it sounded just like my guitar playing. So, I was even able to translate this sound I so liked into my own playing, without playing the same song at all, but still couldn’t put any of it in words. But I think it’s safe to say that I GET it. And what I get is probably largely what was intended.

      You get some of my art that I don’t know if anyone else gets, and I can tell you get it by the things you say. You like Francis Bacon and Frank Auerbach (lots of people can’t begin to fathom either of them) and a lot of different artists I also like, including Nolde (another cult favorite), and thus are able to see things that others might not be familiar with at all.

      It’s like when you look at Adrian Genie, or whatever, and you can tell where he’s learned from Bacon, but botched it a bit. Kinda’ like when Hirst did all his fake Bacons.

      I know you don’t like for artists to be snobs and assume that others don’t get their art because they’re visually illiterate and whatnot, but I do think that’s a big part of it. I feel that way about myself when I approach any work of art in any medium. My own ignorance is the first obstacle to understanding what the other person is communicating. My ear for Jazz, for example, I know is not that developed, and thus to actually ascertain Jazz music would take quite a bit of work, and hundreds of hours of listening.

      One of my favorite bands is Gentle Giant, but unless someone likes some other rather experimental prog music of the 70’s, like Crimson or Yes or Can or something, I wouldn’t try it on them. They’re going to hate it. And people who haven’t really gotten into art are usually going to hate Auerbach as well.

      In a comment above, which annoyed me, the author asserted that the market determines whether art is “intrinsically” good or not. Anathema! But, what this misses is that the audience doesn’t just get to decide if art is good or not, the audience has to do work, has to make a leap of the imagination. Definitely when I am the audience that is the case for me. I’m not going to listen to a symphony by Shostoakovich and decide is sucks based on my first listening.

      “The best advice I have for artists is to stick to your vision, assume that you will never be famous or make money at it. If your ok with that and still need to create then you just might be a real artist.”

      That is as optimistic as it is cynical. But, yes, surely if art isn’t first and foremost its own reward, either in the creation or the result or both, than it is just another job, going through the motions for a livelihood.

      The idea that one an never benefit from doing so is cynical. There’s probably room for both. See Frank Auerbach. I hope to make some cash. I’d fund artist I believe in if I weren’t myself strapped for cash. One has to TRY to sell ones art, and right now I’m not even trying. I have nothing for sale anywhere, other than a mug or two lingering on some years-old accounts. I’m working on strategies to make some money, and I actually have received some donations and whatnot that have been really helpful. So, before we accept that we can never make money, we have to try to make money off of art. I can’t say I’ve made a REAL effort in that department. I’ve been waiting a bit, working on my portfolio, and now I’m putting together a plan to get more exposure, and then hopefully enough money to merely survive on so I can keep making work.

      Cheers, and thanks for the continued dialogue.

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  3. G’day Eric,
    A courageous slip of the knife as you stab at your daemons. For while your conclusion “… the goal of visual art – to cultivate the visual imagination” meets your stated goal to ascertain “purpose of visual art” it misses the target in that many other things that are arguably not Art also effectively readily populate other parts of the answer domain. Be they; commercial logos or exercises of graphic or industrial design, information graphics, visual metaphors, conventions for display qualitative information, biological taxonomies & schemas, spacial mechanical projections, architectural plans & renderings , visual languages, ideographs, maps, hierarchies et al. None of those can be credibly squeezed into any robust definition of art but (as witnessed by the cultural historical cross-pollination of iconic art works from the culture of their day) much do cultivate the visual imagination. So my spin would be “Purpose of Visual Art is via visuals relationship of, or with art-work(s) enliven, stir the viewers’ reception or mood.” Yep that is a mouthful but I’m no word-smith.

    Al the best.

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    1. Ha! Great points. There are things which expand the visual repertire which are NOT visual art. I’m going to let that gestate. One of the things I’m doing while writing is brushing up on my philosophy, psychology, and so on. One has to keep evolving. But for now, I’d say that you used a one line encapsulation at the end of my article, found limitation with it, but didn’t include the elaboration I’d already given above to indicate more clearly what I mean, and all the other ways I said something similarly. Nevertheless, I really like your point.

      And in fact, I DO find those sorts of visual inventions, which we might call them, interesting. I’ve studied logos and charts. For years I worked as a temp in a bank and made pie charts, line charts, and various graphs all F’ing day. So, it may be true that any kind of visual innovation can be interesting and relevant to a visual artist, but may not be intended as art.

      My first reaction to that, and here is where my philsophical terminology falls short, is that I’m making a sort of argument (there’s got to be a term for this) in which I am delineating the least that visual art must do, and not saying that anything that does it is necessarily visual art. All spotted dogs bark, but not all barking dogs are spotted. So, similarly, while I would argue that the purpose of music is to expand our auditory horizons, I would not include air sirens as music.

      And that is where we are getting MORE specific than I was in my article. I said I was arguing something so basic and obvious that it hardly need be said, EXCEPT in that so much art did/does nothing of that at all, adds precisely nothing to the visual imagination.

      I didn’t get into whether any art which does create a new style or imagined reality is necessarily good (late Renoir, for example). Usually I will ad that the imagery needs to be interesting, compelling, engaging, or some of those things.

      So, you can just take it that I am saying that the least we can ask of visual art is that it contribute something visual to our imaginitive horizons. But, yes, not anything new and visual is art. That’s just getting more refined about it, and at this point it’s almost impossible to get people to even acknowledge that visual art should be visual (and not just not invisible).

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  4. Hi, love your insight on many topics, this is the only piece of writing that i’ve read of you and i must say that you have very strong opinions and defend them very well. Which is nice to see nowadays.
    I will start reading the entries of your blog that interest me!

    By the way, can you elaborate more about Pollock? was very sad to read that you weren’t going to mention him as he is one of my favorites, in future entries or wherever.

    Thanks for this piece! Keep up the good work.

    .

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    1. I’ve actually written a lot about Pollock already and how art history got him all wrong. I’ve develoed some isues with him over time, but generally I’ve liked a lot of his paintings, including in person. Is it really that hard to like spilled paint? it just has to be done really well, and the result was to me a new kind of imagery. You might find this article on Pollock amusing, or not: https://artofericwayne.com/2015/01/20/how-art-history-got-jackson-pollcok-all-wrong-and-why-it-matters/

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  5. Eric,
    I might be getting a little more cynical as I get older. Maybe a little frustration with egotistical artists, or just the fact that An artist is considered a failure if they are not famous.

    I think your right about the artists point usually does come across is right. Maybe subconsciously. I just noticed in a few of my latest paintings some of the figures have taken on an alien feel. You might be having an effect on my art. I’m definitely influenced by my favorite artists and still try to stay the course as well.

    I just got on Facebook and am going to put a bunch of my paintings on. I’ll let you know when it’s up.

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    1. Instagram is better than FB for sharing work, but still sucks. I got on Instagram too late and it’s just impossible to get any traction at this point, unless somebody else shares something I do, which is the same with this blog. I get most my “hits” from Google searches, but when something goes sorta’ viral, it’s because somebody with a big following shared it somewhere. My direct audience is minuscule. But that’s kinda’ appropriate right now, though it should be really a lot bigger than it is. I’m just speaking directly to the public. I’m not writing for any magazine and I’m not showing in any gallery. I’m not doing fan art of piggy-backing off of anything that’s really popular.

      But, yeah, you should get your work out there. I mean, even if you or I can’t make money (yet!) off of our work, the more important issue is that people see it. Sure, I make art for myself and always have, but if you don’t trust your own self on what is good and interesting, why should anyone else trust you? If I find it interesting, others might, too. And as I’ve said, there are a few pieces that I think you liked that practically nobody else did, just because they are in some ways a little obscure. I sure wasn’t making those with other people much in mind. Definitely, if I don’t like it, I don’t expect anyone else to. And thus, on the flip side, if I DO like it, I hope some others will see it as well.

      I think there are a lot of people with my images in their heads. Eventually they might become familiar. And then people will like them more.

      Anyway, it’s a great idea to get your work out there so people can see it.

      Cheers. [also I have a new article out you might be interested in].

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