I often find myself deeply concerned with whether or not my art is “good” and then immediately after the cycle of hyper-criticality and self-imposed scrutiny I wonder what it means to produce “good” art. I think there is plenty of art I engage with that I can recognize in my head as being “bad” and certainly there is art I look at and recognize as being “good”. I ask myself to unpack these terms more and things become even more complex. I often think of Basquait and how I find his art to be particularly visually unappealing- but I am drawn to it none the less. This is hardly a critique of Basquait, I do not feel art has to be pretty to be good. This isn’t some pretentious think piece about how Basquait makes ugly art. What’s important of Basquiat’s work is not just how it looks, but that he created it. I think about how daunting originality is, to create in ones own style- and I admire Basquiat all the more. So if I can look at a piece by Basquiat and find it to be ugly, but still be good then clearly the measure of “goodness” does not lie purely in aesthetic.
Lately I’ve come to feel the measure of “good” art lies in its reach. If a piece sets upon its aim then can we call it good? This begs another question- what is the aim of art? Should art have an aim or ultimate goal? If a piece of art intends towards one goal but reaches another is it therefore bad? We may never know the thoughts that went through Tommy Wiseau’s head as he made The Room, even though I don’t think he could have fortold what he would create or that he meant to create what he did, I still feel it is good art. It is art that makes me laugh, it makes me think and it continues to engage me and leave me with joy over and over again. Surely this shitty piece of film can be called good since it makes me feel good. What about other art? What of Toshio Saeki and Hieronymus Bosch? I love Saeki’s violent sexual imagery and I can appreciate the chaoticness of Bosch’s landscapes, but their art does not make me feel good. It makes me think, sometimes it makes me feel small, even grotesque, but not happy. Does art’s profundity lie in its ability to insipire? Perhaps it is not that I feel bad or good, but that I feel at all?
This leaves me feeling confused- I’ve got a strong desire to measure my art and I’m accustomed to using binary frameworks (as society perpetuates them ad nauseum). The ‘good vs bad’ dichotomy is convenient for me. This allows me to tell myself either of two things “you are good at art; keep doing it” or “you are bad at art; stop doing it” but these are both arbitrary. Why on earth should a lack of talent keep me from doing something? I love art very much. Creating it, witnessing it, participating in it, admiring it, etc if there is truly a way of engaging art that makes me bad at it then why would that mean I should stop doing it? I love to dance though I wouldn’t say I am particularly inclined towards it. I enjoy singing along to the radio though my voice, objectively, is more William Hung than it is Whitney Houston, but can’t we consider William Hung to be an artist? If we are measuring a singers talent based on sound alone wouldn’t someone like Roger Waters also be dismissed? I love Pink Floyd and will literally scream all of The Trial at the top of my lungs, but I can’t think of a single part in that song where vocals WOW me.
So we come back around to the same question- what does it mean to be good st art? Ultimately this question may be fools errand. I think concerning myself with whether or not I am a talented artist and whether or not my art is good has little bearing on if I should continue to produce it or not. It is enough to create art for your own sake, for its own sake. I may not be “good” at art, I may never be in galleries, no one else may appreciate it, but I will create it anyway.