What is art

If you are not disturbed, you are not an artist.

“Art should comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable.” ~ Cesar Cruz

The definition of art in LA was always measured by two simple outcomes: fame and fortune. Some idealists in my home town might muse that real art was about something else, but at the end of the day, that’s what it came down to. Let’s be honest, the stage actor in Minnesota who is in love with his craft doesn’t need to move to sunny So Cal to make art. He moves there to make money.

I was sitting in a bar the other night with two new friends. They were both “foreign”, in this case meaning non-German, and very quickly the conversation did its usual thing and began to circle around what we do.

The woman to my left had been classically trained as an actress and had worked in New York for several years before becoming a theater owner and producer in Berlin. She was a thespian with natural ability who had received rave reviews and money for her work. And yet, she did not consider herself an actress. She went to school for it but she did not identify with this role.

The man to my right had grown up in a family of internationally renowned jazz musicians and he clearly had a passion and aptitude for dance. He had received very positive feedback for his performances but was currently running his own landscaping business. When I asked him, he said he loved it but since he had never been to dance school, he didn’t consider himself a dancer.

I explained how I had love for singing and acting and was currently working in business development. I was educated in business, have an aptitude and passion for performing but would at this point in my life find it tricky to call myself an artist.

Then, as the waitress brought the next round, I asked a seemingly simple question, “What makes an artist?”

Is it your education?

Is it your passion?

Is it your aptitude?

Is it the feedback you receive- monetarily or otherwise?

Is it the identification you have with it?

Or, perhaps, it is some combination of all of the above.

I got to play devil’s advocate for a while, which was really fun. “So what if someone is educated in it, has a passion for it but has no natural ability? What if a person is passionate about it and receives positive feedback but has no education in it? What if a person has the aptitude, passion and identification but has never gotten paid for it?…”

If I were to use one word to describe art in Berlin it would be “raw”. I love this because in contrast to all that glitters and shines, for me, it seems more real. It’s a bit like uncut stones- I find the honesty of their imperfections mesmerizing. But I have been having this ongoing “feud” with one of my friends here. She spent many years as a professional recording artist in New York and says that the art in Berlin is sub-par. My definition of art, since moving here, has become “what moves me”. Her definition is “what’s good.” I guess they are both pretty subjective.

But I remain very curious about this. And as I prepare to travel to LA next week, these important questions linger. What makes an artist and what is art? So, I am writing this blog to get you in on the conversation. If you are reading this line, you are now officially involved (insert maniacal laugh here!*) I want to know how you define art and being an artist…

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