Only a fool will tell you how to experience art. But in the interest of EW’s inaugural visual arts issue, Arts Hound, I’m willing to play the fool. You see, in the past year as arts editor, I have encountered a widespread epidemic in Eugene: artphobia. “I just don’t get art,” people tell me, avoiding galleries, museums, art walks like the plague for fear of being, or being seen as, out of their element.
As an arts writer and an artist, this has caused me much consternation, and thus, I offer an antidote for this aesthetic anxiety: There’s nothing to “get.” Art is life, culture, politics, religion, history, the future. It’s a reflection of society. It’s a reflection of you. There are no wrong answers here. Saying that you don’t “get” art is like saying you don’t “get” life. It may be true, but that does not mean you opt out of the experience all together.
Artists, however, must uphold their end of the bargain, which is to produce work that makes you feel something, anything. The American novelist James Baldwin said it better than I ever could: “Artists are here to disturb the peace.” Whether it be through style, content, technique, medium or process, art should evoke; it should rattle, soothe, repulse, anger, tickle or enlighten the human spirit. Anything less is decoration — beautiful decoration maybe, but decoration nonetheless.
In these pages, we sought out people in the local visual arts community who are doing just that. So artists and art amateurs, forget “get.” Engage, disturb the peace and push the conversation forward.