Re: ART: What Art Is

From: Technotranscendence (
Date: Mon May 29 2000 - 18:37:56 MDT

On Monday, May 29, 2000 9:24 AM Nadia wrote:
> > Isn't this merely a call for credentials? Does anyone think she was
> > unacquainted with works of Modern Art? Or is QueeneMUSE demanding
> someone
> > have an art degree from a prestigious school before opening one's mouth
> > putting pen to paper?
> Most explicitly, No!


> Degrees are nice to have, they get respect, and yes, people will take you
> more seriously, But Ph.D.'s don't hold the patent on the knowledge.
> Libraries, the Internet, art classes, all good. Many free. But the desire
> must be there, and an open willing mind.

Are you sure Rand didn't avail herself of this? Her comments and other
stuff she wrote seem to betray familiarity with a lot of art work. (Also,
recall, she died in 1982 before she could avail herself of the internet.
Yeah, I know technically she could have gotten email back then, but there
was no web.:)

> If one is an artist, one SHOULD learn these things. But to critique and
> sound bilious, one MUST.

See above.

> > What would have educated her in this regard? I have a feeling that
> > adulation and praise would qualify for QueeneMUSE as education. Prove
> > wrong! Please prove me wrong.:)
> Tsk Tsk, you have a feeling? ; P .... Daniel, objectivists can't go by
> FEELINGS, haven't you learned anything from your Goddess? ; ) just

I've no gods or godesses in my pantheon -- just lots and lots of books.:)

> First of all, let me tell you my name, it is Nadia.

I forgot. I was only using QueeneMUSE because Nadia does not include her
name in every post.

> No, I don't want her to
> praise Pollock and other 1950's modernist art, in fact she would have like
> work better, it's figurative realism, and very conservative.

I'm not sure. I've lamented elsewhere that most Objectivists do not look
at, listen to, read, etc. enough art. I mean in Rand's case, I've to admit,
she was exposed to a lot of it. However, many of her followers just take
her word for it and leave it at that. (A few do not and explore. Some of
those arrive at the same conclusions she did and others do not. The
Objectivist community is not so monolithic as to march in lockstep over
every issue.)

> Last time I
> looked at a Pollock I was sadly disappointed. (Which I'll go into below).

Truth be told, I agree with Rand on Pollock, BUT I think Pollock's drip
paintings are fun to look at. I don't get any deep meaning from them, but
the illusory effect of wiggling -- I've seem them up close and personal --
can be quite exciting. (I freely admit to viewing many a Modern work --
even of revelling in Ligetti's piano music! See my web page for my tastes.
I've not hidden them from this audience or from Objectivists or even from my
true love Echelon. Are you listening, my dear? I know you are. I know you

> What would have qualified her as a valid person to critique ANY sort of
> would have been simple: *knowing what the standards are* instead of making
> her own and calling them objective. It's kind of like saying: If I don't
> it, it's shit. Deal with it.

Rand did not, as even a cursory reading of _The Romantic Manifesto_ will
show, argue that her or anyone's tastes were objective. In fact, in quite a
few places in that work, she is quite strict about delineating esthetic
judgment of a work from esthetic reaction to it. One can, after all, judge
something to be a great work of art yet not like it. Or judge something to
be inferior yet love it.

> There are standards for art education. The main four ones are:
> This is the ability to see and understand concepts in art. Line,
> form, negative space, balance, materials, techniques. such as collage,
> airbrush, trump l'oiel, assemblage, casting, scumbling
> What "visual terms" do artists use to express unity, movement, emphasis,
> space, and texture, etc.? Visual perception is an ability to recognize the

> processes that made the art as well as to understand the final composition
> and meaning, if any. Artistic perception is learned through comparisons
> identification of these elements.

I don't disagree.

> Creating, performing and participating in the arts. Doing art. Developing
> knowledge and skills in a variety of media. Applied knowledge. This is the
> most common form of art knowledge. Many here on the list do this part,
> great success!

I'll be the judge of that!:)

> (For Ayn Rand her media was her writing -- which she mastered brilliantly.
> my knowledge she never attempted any visual art).

She did draw according her comments when she was in school. But I don't
think one must do to judge, else only those who have killed would be able to
sentence a murderer. Only those who cooked would be able to judge a meal.
And we'd all have to shut up here about "The Matrix," since, as far as I
know, there are no film directors among us. (Am I wrong? If so, please
speak. I've lots of questions about film.:)

She also wrote screenplays and worked in Hollywood for a spell.

> This is the understanding of contributions of the culture that the art
> from, and the history of art before. It looks at what was happening
> historically while art was being made. What is the content of art in
> times and periods and locations and cultures throughout the world? What
> the role of visual arts in human history?

A good point. I don't think Rand overlooked this, though she was no art
historian. I also think she simplified a lot of art history. In her
defense, though, she was writing on esthetics in general and not getting
into the minutiae on every aspect of the arts. This is the work later
thinkers -- Peter Saint-Andre, Kirsti Minsaas, Stephen Cox, and the writers
of _What Art Is_ -- are now doing.

I think Rand's problem was not so much inexperience at all. Instead, it was
a dogged disregard of other points of view. This does NOT mean other points
of view are right. Heck, most of the time when I get the other person's
view on something, I quickly confirm he or she is an ignorant fool. Still,
Rand was almost always dismissive, especially as she got older. Nor did she
seek out criticisms. (She's not alone in this. Many thinkers, some of them
great, were extremely disliking of all criticism and shielded themselves
from it. The difference, of course, is that many of them have tenure or are
part of the Establishment. From inside, it's easy to ignore critics, but
from the outside (and Rand was on the outside; only lately has Objectivism
started to penetrate academia) one must be more careful and ever ready to
discuss and refine. i'm not here advocating that established thinkers and
movements should act this way. Just telling it like it is.)

I don't want to read too much into this. After all, the focus should be, as
I've mentioned before, on the ideas, especially whether they are valid and
whether they lead to any other useful ideas.

> The ability to analyze, interpret and derive meaning from works of visual
> art. Judgments made about and determining the quality of art *in
> with the learned elements and principles at work*.

This presupposes acceptance of those principles. One need also to judge the
field from outside itself, much as we judge whether the political system or
current laws are just apart from whether a specific person broke a specific
law. For the most part, Rand's esthetics is a different bird from Modernist
or Postmodernist esthetics. In fact, in some ways, in hearkens back to
ancient Greek notions of art, especially those of Plato and Aristotle. (I
don't think this is a bad thing. The Ancients were not a bunch of idiots we
can safely ignore merely because they are long dead.) Even so, it is not
merely a pastiche of old Greek views.

Moreover to reduce Rand's esthetics merely to its critical role of being
against Modern Art is to miss a lot of it. It's not purely negative -- even
just in the dialectical fashion of negating to affirm. Perhaps we could
discuss that here to see what Nadia and others think of her more substantive
notions on why we need art and how it affects us.

> So you can see:
> Adulation and praise have nothing to do with a good crit. Her potshot at
> Pollacks work was to call it little better than a "drunk vomiting on the
> sidewalk." Nice.

I wouldn't go as far as to say that, though I've seen films of Jackson
Pollack at work. (I've not seen his wife's work, but would like to.) It
makes breaking all the rules look easy -- requiring no talent whatsoever,
except, perhaps, making sure some of the paint makes it to the canvas.

> Again: I see her as emotionally reactive, sneering, derisive and smug ...
> well balanced, aware, educated, worldly, calm and knowledgeable.

Can a person who is "well balanced, aware, educated," etc. ever react in
Nadia's world with revulsion? Or is such an emotion banned?

> Hope this cleared it up for you.

A little, but from my comments one can see I'm still not in agreement.

> I really do think her whole problem was her pathological dislike of
> she couldn't control.

I think she had that problem, though I don't think it was her dominating
vice. Sadly, toward the end she isolated herself so as not to overcome

Nadia might also want to read "Interesting Parallels: Kenyon Cox and Ayn
Rand on Art" at I wrote it
about five years ago. Some of it pertains to the above discussion. (Need I
mention Cox was a painter, teacher, and art critic?)


Daniel Ust

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : Thu Jul 27 2000 - 14:12:05 MDT