Is It Art?

Peter-Like_canyonArt critic Jonathan Jones, writing this week  in The Guardian, cites the $6.5 million sale of Peter Lik’s photograph of an Arizona canyon as proof that photography is not art.

Perhaps we should recall that the controversial Mr. Jones once embraced photography as the most serious art of our time.  

Ever since my first year college course in philosophy, where the meaning of art was one of the Big Issues, I have pondered that question.  Over the years, I have evolved an answer for myself that basically says that art is whatever the artist wants and intends it to be.  Thus, I would see Jones’ ill-framed point as not whether it is art, but is it “good” art or “bad” art.  In my own definition, I see art as not only an intention, but also a reflection of a process.  A process in which one is open to discovery and its outcome.  Of course, my view ultimately could be applied to just about any human endeavor.  Perhaps coming to that conclusion was the time that I stopped worrying about making “art” and decided to just experience the whole thing and its context.  (Which opened me to computer programming, musicology, marriage, parenting …)

I well remember having a chance, some forty years ago, to visit with Ansel Adams.   I saw him then as more of an extraordinary craftsman, than an artist.  Ansel didn’t like my portfolio — too contrasty, too grainy, etc. — but was gracious enough to allow me to use his Yosemite darkroom.   Later on, I made friends with Edmund Teske, who told me about the time that he and Ansel got into a public debate about art, with Ansel characterizing Edmund’s work as gimmickry, not art.

So, anyway … 

After I brought The Guardian article to the attention of my old photography sidekick, Bill, he provided me with this Peter Lik hometown newspaper piece with more information about the record-breaking sale.

This entry was posted in photographers & exhibitions. Bookmark the permalink.