By David James

My name is David James. This is my introductory column about the visual arts for the Vail Voice.  Thank you to our editor Mike for the invitation, and to everyone who has welcomed me here in Vail. When I first moved to Vail, I cared not a whit if I would ever try to make any art again.  The sincerity of the people here and the culture of the Old Pueblo, the hallelujah that people here value art and artists has been transformative for me.  I hope that this very basic column will be of interest.

What is art? What do you personally think of when you hear the word art?  When most people think of art they tend to think of what I found in Google, “the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power.” OK.  That seems eminently reasonable. I agree.

Oh goodness! Now things are getting more complicated.  Merriam Webster says the definition of art is; a “skill acquired by experience, study, or observation the art of making friends;” a branch of learning; one of the humanities (as in liberal arts). Or, art can be understood as “an occupation requiring knowledge or skill” the art of organ building. Another definition of art is “the conscious use of skill and creative imagination especially in the production of aesthetic objects the art of painting landscapes” or “decorative or illustrative elements in printed matter.”

Even more interestingly, Wiki begins its description of art as: “Art is a diverse range of human activities in creating visual, auditory or performing artifacts (artworks), expressing the author’s imaginative or technical skill, intended to be appreciated for their beauty or emotional power. In their most general form, these activities include the production of works of art, the criticism of art, the study of the history of art, and the aesthetic dissemination of art.”

I once showed some paintings to my daughter’s 2nd grade class and I asked those children this. What do you see?  My favorite answers were a forest, an ocean, a beautiful mountain and then I called on the eager young man waving frantically in the back row of the classroom.  He said “I know, I know. It looks like somebody spilled something on it. I’ll never forget that tender moment. I have been a visual artist most of my life.  As I am want to say: “I don’t know what I like, but I know one heckuva lot about art!”

One of the things I love about Del Webb at Rancho Del Lago is the, again per wiki, “diverse range of human activities.”  I fell in love with Vail the moment I crossed over the hill from the freeway.  It is a great place to be an artist.

So, what is art to you?  Is it supposed to be beautiful?  Inspiring?  Challenging?  Motivational?  Spiritual? Secular?  None of the above?  None of your business? I look forward to our upcoming discussions. I am considering writing on the following topics: What is Modernism? What is Post Modernism? Is Art Relevant in Our Culture?

David James earned his Masters in Fine Arts in Mixed Media from the University of Arizona in 1984.   He taught Foundations in Art, Drawing, Painting, and developed popular courses in Experimental Drawing & Experimental Painting, over a 25 year career as a Professor of Art, at the University of Montana.

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