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.

Take A Hike by Wilson Bickford

If you want to get your creative juices flowing, sometimes you just have to get out into Mother Nature's domain. Winters here in northern NY can be quite brutal, with minus 20s and 30s pretty common in January and February. There are acres and acres of meadows and thick woods behind my home which I routinely patrol on my snowshoes. Although this is not my land, the owner does not mind me trekking around out there, so I take advantage of that (and I am grateful for it).

I like to snowshoe for several reasons:
* Just to make the best of a bad situation (let's just say that Winter isn't my favorite season)
* To get some fresh air and exercise
* And to get inspiration / photos for my artwork

While snow can be bothersome, as far as the shoveling, plowing and snowblowing, it is also quite beautiful and is one of my favorite landscape themes. This morning was crisp (8 degrees above), clear and bright, so I grabbed my camera and snowshoes and headed out. It was just after 8am when I hit the woods and the sun was still rising and filtering through the trees. I loved the play of light and shadows. More specifically, the warm lights and the cool, blue shadows. If you're looking for a broad range of color temperatures in your painting, this will do it. Such beautiful contrast!

I'm sure these photos will ultimately find their way onto my canvas. It's hard for me to imagine not trying to capture this tranquility. The warm and cool colors, the contrast of the dark silhouetted trees against the bright sun light bursting through............... how can one not be inspired?

So, what I want to say to you is, "GO TAKE A HIKE!!" You may not have snow where you are, so go stroll the beach, take a walk through the city streets, or meander along a wooded trail.

It'll be great for your mind, body and artistic soul!

Devil & Angel

The Fountain Marcel Duchamp 1917

Prompt: Is this Art?

JOE DiGIULIO: One can argue about the entry of Duchamp's "The Fountain" into a 1917 exhibition as to whether it should be considered Art. As a 3 dimensional sculptor, I have always sought for the harmony between form and function and within this criteria, I would have to say "No" it is not considered as such due to it not being functional in its state within a museum setting.
By turning the piece on it side, The Fountain, has resembled the imagery of a sitting Buddha or a veiled Madonna figure with its sweeping downward curves. From that standpoint I would consider it as Art. So that's one for and one against. I would also, and most importantly, consider whether the piece elicits a response from the observer. Although the Fountain was hidden from view in the exhibition one would have to believe that the public response to the piece's inclusion would have been one of shock. With this in mind, I would contend that YES it is Art in the fact that it caused an emotional response from the observer. Whether good or bad, if the observer is emotionally drawn to the piece, then it is a successful piece of Art. Found art or fabricated from the artist's hand, when displayed within the museum setting the final work stands to be observed and judged by the eye of the beholder. It is from there that beauty is conceived.

SHARON DiGIULIO: NO! This is not art. This is some crazy person's attempt to get a reaction from the art community. I believe Duchamp was using this as a futile attempt to cause a stir. Now, sometimes the art community needs a little stir, but this urinal is more of a disaster in my opinion. Picking something up out of the trash or purchasing someone else's creation (or design or manufactured item) and calling it your own or calling it art is ridiculous! I do, however, believe that when you do use "found objects" in an art piece, you can call it your own when you alter or manipulate it or incorporate other items with it and present it in a new way or tell a story, that it does eventually become art. But when you have a urinal and sign the manufacturer's name to it and submit it for public display, that's a little weird in my opinion.

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