Devil & Angel: Is Photography Art?

Image by: Ira Goldstein
Angkor Wat
Black and White Photo


This is a difficult question for me as a painter. When I see a "Call to Artist" for a juried show, I tend to look and see if the show will have category awards for Painting, Drawing, Sculpture, Woodworking, Photography and the like. I would consider entering the show if that is the case. I have been to many "juried shows" with open categories and wined up seeing that, of the six or so awards in the show, three or four of the merit awards were photographs. Either the juror is a photographer themselves or the rest of the offered fine art work is not up to snuff. This is very disheartening to a majority of the classic entries of paintings, sculptures or drawings. I consider the fine arts different than a photograph in that the photo is developed from an instrument that replicates reality through the cameras eye while the fine art entries are originated through the minds eye of the artist.

The other part of me, when viewing the work of Ansell Adams for example, looks at his photographs and definitely sees it as "Art." What separates his work is that his compositions were stylized with the shadowed foregrounds in many of his photographs. This has become iconic with his work. It's not the photo as much as it is the style of the composition that creates the sense of "Art" for me. So in the final analysis I do not consider basic photography "Art" unless the photographer has a defined style that has been incorporated in their work.

Photography is absolutely art!
It takes a keen eye for texture, line, composition and subject matter to take a great photo. There is a ton of creativity that enters in when working with photography either in the field, in the studio or in the development process in the darkroom, or even in the early stages of concept. These are all factors in making or creating a good painting as well. An artist in either choice of materials must push their ideas beyond what has already been created and make something new or different. Each artist faces the same challenges in the creation process by asking questions and solving the problems encountered along the way.

I do think that each process belongs in their own category when it comes to museums or juried shows. I think paintings should compete with paintings, sculpture should compete with sculpture, photography should compete with photography, etc.

Help! I'm Stuck! by Jeanne Bessette

O.k. let's face it. We all get stuck. It's panic time and we feel like we will never make another worthy piece of art as long as we live. Or even worse, we insist on working in this energy and every piece we touch turns to garbage. It can sometimes go on for days, weeks even.


Even the most successful artists have blocks...just can't move.
Sigh. What to do what to do...clean the studio? Stare at the canvas? Make mud?
Do least at first. Take a deep breath. The times that we can't seem to be creative are just nature's way of making you rejuvenate. Your creative juices have not dried up, they are refilling. Compare it to driving across the country and expecting your car to make the whole trip without refilling the tank. It's not possible.

So...breathe, forgive yourself, drink water, go for a run, buy new golf shoes, take a bath, whatever it takes to relax...once you calm your nerves and you find your center, you can make a plan and reenter the studio. Here are just a few ideas when you get there.

Maybe you need some new intentions to get the paint flowing again. Try painting funky words like constipation or trapped. What colors would you use? Would the painting have tension? What does tension look like? Use only one color and black and white to create a monochromatic painting. Turn it upside down. Paint some more. Paint with only your fingers. Feel the oozy juicy paint squish on your skin. Feel the roughness of the canvas. Are you getting the idea? Play!!!! With paint!!!!

The idea is to not be so serious. You are refilling your creative tank. You are PLAYING. We forget to play and that is where creativity lives and breathes.
Paint to one song; create a painting that tells the story of the song. Play it again, paint some more. Don't take yourself so seriously. Laugh at your art. Make a goofy painting just for fun that no one will look at. Create a painting imagining you are a five year old. Five-year-olds make beautiful paintings because they play. They paint outside the lines and color skies pink. They dance and sing.
Cut out words from a magazine and paste them on the canvas. Create a message. Now paint the message. Paint outside. Breathe the fresh air (reserved for warmer weather).
Whatever you do, do not try to make a great painting. Just paint for the fun of painting. time you are blocked, stuck or in a funk...PLAY PLAY PLAY...
Next thing you know, you'll be creating again and you never saw it coming. I promise.
See you in the studio!


Call it what you want by TMNK

Rat Race
Mixed Media on Masonite

I'm not much into labels. I simply try to express a thought or a feeling in some form of visual permanence. But when listing my work in catalogs and exhibitions, the term mixed-media is most often used. Mixed-media? Yes, I deploy a mash-up of mediums in the creation of my art. Basically, I use any and everything that leaves a permanent mark, crayons, paint, pencil, pen, spray paint, collages, ink jet printers – anything and everything.

Figurative? Impressionist? Neo-expressionist? Low Brow? While perhaps they help art critics and historians better categorize and understand the influences behind the art, for me, these are limiting boundaries; creative restraints designed to put an artist in a specific box.

For me each tool, medium, texture, and color offers an opportunity for spontaneous discovery and exploration. So, in the process I've used silk screening, collage, acrylic, oil sticks, acrylics, oils, and watercolor. I recently used an empty toilet tissue roll in a painting to express human frailty, vulnerability, an dependence on one another. For me it was the perfect symbol to express a commonality we all share. It was for me the perfect visual vehicle to express the thought that, regardless of race, religion, or financial status we all at some point in our life need someone to help us with our basic needs. Regardless of the medium being used to mark with or mark on. It's more about the idea, the thought, the journey.

Call it what you want. I call them scribblings, urban hieroglyphics, just one voice amongst many busting out of the claustrophobic box of conformity.

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