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Old 03-14-2012, 01:15 AM
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stlukesguild stlukesguild is offline
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Re: Why do we make things?

St. Luke's Guild, do you interpret that research as applying both to the process of making art and to the object that is made? In other words is the satisfaction derived from the creative activity itself separable from the outcome of the effort?

I think the key passage from Dutton's article with regard to the link between art and sex is found here:

“Applied to human art, this suggests that beauty equals difficulty and high cost. We find attractive those things that could have been produced only by people with attractive, high-fitness qualities such as health, energy, endurance, hand-eye coordination, fine motor control, intelligence, creativity, access to rare materials, the ability to learn difficult skills, and lots of free time”. This view accords with a persistent intuition about art that can be traced from the Greeks to Nietzsche and Freud: art is somehow connected, at base, to sex. The mistake in traditional art theorizing has been to imagine that there must be some coded or sublimated sexual content in art. But it is not the content per se that sexual: it is the display element of producing and admiring artists and their art in the first place that has grounded art in sexuality since the beginnings of the human race."

Dutton would seem to suggest that sexuality lies at the biological root of why art is valued. Consequently, the artist or creator cannot help but be influenced by that which is valued or in demand. I certainly wouldn't go so far as to suggest that the dominant reason that art is consciously valued by the audience is related to sex... nor subsequently that the dominant conscious reason behind the creation of art is always sex. I do suspect, however, that something as central to the human experience as sexuality remains ever a central motivation (consciously or unconsciously) behind the admiration and creation of art.

I think that many would agree that fashion is intimately intertwined with sexuality. Ultimately, it is the human equivalent of the peacock strutting before potential mates. Certainly fashion may promote the illusion of class or wealth or strength or taste... but to what end? Art, in many ways, seems linked to fashion (for better or worse). Like fashion, it deals in illusion, visual splendor, "beauty" (whatever form that may take), sophistication, etc...

Clive Green-Why are some humans, you and I among them, makers of art? There are a number of reasons... capability, pleasure and example. I hope to show that no one factor makes us want to make art but many.

We make art because we have the capability to make art


I agree that the "reasons we make" art are multi-fold: money, self-expression, the desire to beautify one's environment, a form of meditation, boredom, the intellectual challenge, etc...

I agree that one of the primary reasons that "we" as individual artists create art is because we have the capability... or believe we do. From my own perspective, I spent a great many hours, back in grade school, drawing endlessly in my notebooks. I had the ability to rapidly learn and remember anything I had read, and so I was often finished with my assigned school work before others and so I turned to drawing in my notebooks. Thus you might say art represented an escape, a means of avoiding boredom... and with time... as I naturally got better and better... it became something in which I clearly had a capability.

As time passed, there were other reasons for making art. I began to hang out with a couple of other students who were equally fond of drawing. We were obsessed with comic books. The superheroes and the fantastic narratives were an escape from the drab lives of a suburban middle-school student... but there also was an element of competition as we began to strive to outdo each other and gain the attention of others. Certainly, there was even a sexual element to this as suddenly girls who had never shown the least interest in us were talking to us and asking us to draw Tweety Bird or Bugs Bunny for them.

When I entered high-school, art became a means of consciously conveying ideas about those things which were important to me: politics, social-economic issues, history, music... and certainly girls. At this time there was also the first real idea that art might be where I could make a living.

Art school pushed other potential possibilities and especially pushed me to question my ideas as to what art could be and what "good" or "bad" art was. Like a great majority of art school graduates, I went though a period of unlearning much that I had learned in art school... or rather a period of questioning the notion that all I had been taught was "gospel". I also began the long process of questioning just why I wanted to make art... and what it was that I valued as an artist.

As a small kid a collected all sorts of things... bric-a-brac, pieces of glass and wood worn down by the waves and found on the beaches, shiny stones, arrowheads, old stamps and coins, etc... I was always "weighing" these... deciding what to keep among my hidden treasures and what to throw away. This process was not far removed from that which I faced as an artist. I "collected" an endless array of art reproductions, experiences, theories, concepts, and ideas. Those that held the deepest attraction for me I kept, while over time I discarded others.

CG- Are there other reasons for making art? Dutton makes the argument that making art helps attract mates because it demonstrates manipulative skills and the wealth of time for making. Not very helpful since making a better weapon and some strategic alliances could get you as many artists as you needed and as many mates as well. I seriously doubt artists get more sex just because they’re artists so the persistence of the trait would seem counter intuitive. Let’s face it, making art requires more than instinct and time.

Clive... I suspect that what you are presenting here is a grossly simplified concept of Dutton's theory. Dutton questions why the arts as a whole developed as they have no purpose that can be clearly linked to human survival. As you, yourself suggest, why not spend the time creating greater weapons? Dutton links it to sexual selection, in which it is the female who selects who she imagines to be the ideal mate. He speaks of the instance of the peacock. The peacock with the most voluminous and brilliant plumage is almost at a disadvantage... forced to lug such a useless burden about. And yet this becomes the very point... the peacock that is strong enough and intelligent enough to avoid all his predators while lugging about such a gorgeous array of feathers is seen as prime mating material. The link between sexuality and the human drive to create art is not limited to some idea that if one paints well, one might get laid more often. It is far more complex than that. Art is valued by the wealthy as a further expression of wealth, sophistication, intelligence, and sensitivity... all of which are certainly attributes valued by potential mates. Undoubtedly there is a degree of thought (however subconscious) among those of us with the ability to draw or paint (just as there is among those who excel at sports) that our "skill" or "talent" is something which may gain us recognition... perhaps even earn us money... which in the end can lead toward more potential mates... but I agree... the drive behind the creation of art is not so simple... or one-dimensional.

I do not make art because of harmony, beauty, truth, social responsibility, money, family pressures or the course requirement. Whatever I may make for any of these reasons may be one of a number of things but not necessarily art. I make art for pleasure. A personal pleasure that is due as much to my sensory relationship with my materials and the physical act of making as with the finished piece. As a bonus I have kind friends and strangers with money who also get some pleasure from what I make, or at least take enough interest to express some feeling about the objects.

Absolutely! The "pleasure principal" is ultimately what I returned to as I asked myself why I was making art... and what I should be making. rather than seeking to create according to this or that theory or concept, I recognized that I can see no reason to create near as important as that it give me pleasure... pleasure in the manipulation of the materials... pleasure in the way one color looks laid next to another... pleasure in the way a line flows... pleasure in the pattern and design... pleasure in the image... in drawing "things"...

Dodie Smith referred to family as ‘that dear octopus from whose tentacles we never quite escape’. Our parents, particularly our mothers, are the primary forces that shape our attitude to the wider world. Factor in siblings (if any), uncles, aunts, cousins, and grandparents as we grow older and more aware. Very young children travel either within their own neighbourhood or between the homes of relatives. Here are the sights, sounds, smells, textures and tastes that comfort or disturb them. The habits and rituals that attract or repel. The music, the pictures, the games, the meals. The associations that provide such fodder for the therapy industry. What our families do sets our own norms.

Did you draw as a child with your mother or father? Were there pictures on the walls of your family home? What were your first picture books? Any gnomes or flamingos in your grandparent’s gardens? Was mum a seamstress? Dad a welder? Uncle Bob an architect?


Indeed... and speaking for myself I fully recognize the influence of my father... constantly building things... and my mother... painting, embroidering, quilting... upon my own earliest fascination with creating things and images. I also recognize the impact of certain childhood books and later comic books upon this same drive.

CG- From observation I will generalise that pleasure in making is true of most artists. Those few, mostly writers you will note, who complain of ‘suffering for ones’ art’ are either bad artists and masochistic or referring not to the pain of making art but rather to the circumstances that surround making art in uncomfortable conditions. Shall we leave them to their garrets and guttering candles?

Robert Sloane- Clive, that is so beautiful and so true. I have to laugh at suffering for your art though. Art and pleasure in creating it can mitigate suffering that would've come whether you were an artist or not. Sometimes "you have to suffer for your art" is a platitude intended to convince an artist that they should be ripped off royally for the value of their work because after all it's natural they starve or suffer for their art.

I also suspect that the notion that one "must suffer" for one's art is commonly used as a form of defense... or justification... for an artist's lack of recognition: "No one will tough my work because it is too raw... it touches too much on real emotions. It's not pretty like that other crap that sells so well". In this sense, it is also a means of one-upmanship or dismissing the value of other's work. We've had more than our share of those who speak of "art with meaning" or "true art"... art born, undoubtedly, of profound suffering... versus what? Art without "meaning"? "Fake Art?"

The poet/translator, John Ciardi had a great rebuttal to the notion that art necessitated suffering. He declared that adolescence was enough suffering for anyone of us to build upon.

What is interesting about the notion of "suffering" is the idea that some artists never suffered... and as a result lack profundity. Yet I look at Peter Paul Rubens:



and in spite of the beauty and fecundity and sensuality and sheer joy and unbound energy that his paintings convey, I know that he lived through the early death of his beloved first wife, the death of several of his children, the struggle and frustration of attempting to confront (as ambassador) the political conflicts of his day, and ultimately the sadness over the political uncertainty of his beloved homeland.

Many such critics should read Oscar Wilde:

The artist is the creator of beautiful things.
To reveal art and conceal the artist is art's aim...

All art is at once surface and symbol.
Those who go beneath the surface do so at their peril.
Those who read the symbol do so at their peril.
It is the spectator, and not life, that art really mirrors...
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Old 03-14-2012, 07:05 AM
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Re: Why do we make things?

You are of course right David - I have much simplified Dutton's argument. He is a good if not particularly populist writer and I would recommend his book to anyone here with the time and inclination to spend a winters evening or two avoiding some of the more banal reality programs on the goggle box. Chapter 3, what is art ?, should perhaps be a compulsory discussion starter for anyone studying art criticism. It would generate some great discussion on WC I'm sure.
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Old 03-15-2012, 09:30 PM
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Re: Why do we make things?

Interesting thread and nice reading.

I wouldn’t really know how to intellectually answer why “we” make “things” since there are so many we’s and so many things. I’m hardly able to articulate why *I* make paintings (my “thing”) because it seems too convoluted. But if I try to write it out, it might help me clarify. (And now as I read this over before I hit the submit button, I think its way too revealing and embarrassingly personal and probably not what was even asked, but oh well, what else is new? I will SUBMIT anyway, to the collective you.)

I know I started off as a young kid IN OPPOSITION to my dictatorial and oppressive father and this has actually been sort of my “motivating force” since then in so many experiences and situations from then until now. It’s become my creative nature - the way I operate - and I’m only now coming to realize this is all very “yin yang.” Slow/fast, soft/hard, yielding/solid, cold/hot, wet/dry, passive/aggressive, defend/attack, and on and on. I NEED contradictions and contrary forces, although I suppose, ideally, these “forces” are supposed to be interconnected and interdependent and give rise to each other in turn. One should not dominate the other. But sometimes they do, and then I fall over (into dualities/dichotomies) because this balancing act is difficult.

I don’t know about others, but this is where/when/how/why my creativity happens. These “force-things” battle in my heart and mind and I feel sort of stretched like a rubber band at the point of breaking. It’s not exactly a comfortable place to be and so this tension (between where I am and where I want to be) needs to find a resolution. Not too hard to see how the sex idea plays into this particular philosophy, because when you happen to find that resolution (and sometimes it takes too long)…well it’s pure pleasure, satisfaction, a release.

So I “make my thing” because it’s just simply….such damn fun.
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Old 03-18-2012, 09:46 AM
fritzie fritzie is offline
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Re: Why do we make things?

Olive Oyl, it sounds like you use your art to assist you in processing and resolving contradictions? Then it's more than that it is fun!
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Old 03-23-2012, 06:07 PM
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Thumbs up Re: Why do we make things?

We make things as an artistic expression that hopefully captures a time period (either imagined or reimagined). Hope would be one of the resounding answers I can give. We make to share hope. Hope this helps.
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Old 03-24-2012, 07:16 PM
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Keith Russell Keith Russell is online now
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Re: Why do we make things?

I "make things" because there is something I want to see, observe, and have be (exist) in the world, that (until I make it) exists only in my head.

If I don't "create/make" it, no one else can, and thus no one else will...
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Old 03-30-2012, 11:57 AM
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Re: Why do we make things?

What are the reasons we make things (intentionally)?
We are all creative beings. For me, I believe this is because we are made like the creator of all things, our heavenly Father. We all use this gift in different areas, some are artists, some writers, scientists, eternal children (in mind or ability) and so on. Created for a purpose to create and be thankful for this gift.

How do you decide which to pursue and how does the project advance for you from idea to a concrete beginning?
Ideas for me are non-stop, I constantly see possibilities but pursue a particular idea when the inspiration takes concrete form. Sometimes I think about the process alot, sometimes I just put my mind in a receptive state and just begin to create like assembling and constructing.

I do alot of mixed media and assemblage art but I move between many different mediums.

Manytimes I will abandon a project, sometimes the project is a learning step for the next one. I am perfectly ok with that.

Hope this helps
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Old 04-01-2012, 01:36 PM
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Re: Why do we make things?

This will probably answer both questions....

I am compelled to make artistic/creative things as if it is a kind of an important mental emergency. I have visuals in the forefront of my mind that get stuck there, and will even somewhat harangue me if I don't start making them into "art." I can jot them down as a sketch to kind of get rid of them from my mind, but that might not be enough if they need to be rendered with color and paint onto a canvas or a panel with additional medium... and it's the dream that asks for it to be made, not necessarily me controlling its context.

That might sound weird, but these things come to me, not me to them.
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Old 04-01-2012, 03:25 PM
fritzie fritzie is offline
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Re: Why do we make things?

artyczar, I don't think what you describe sounds wierd at all. We are not all the same in how driven we are and what may drive us, but there are things I am driven to do as well, things that will not let me stand still until I have attended to them.

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