Art ‘n’ stuff

Apparently, I’ve inspired Nathan Sandler enough that he devoted his inaugural blog posts to critiquing my thoughts on Art vs. Language. I’m flattered that he’s spent the time to write out his thoughts, and even more that he found my work thought-provoking enough to mull so much about them.

Unfortunately, I don’t think he quite got what I was aiming at with the ideas of Art vs. Language. In lieu of what would assuredly be annoying, I won’t make a direct rebuttal, but try to clarify my position a bit since any confusion out there might just be because I haven’t explained it well enough.

There are actually two separate issues involved in my discussions of Art vs. Language. The first involves socio-cultural labeling, the second is about how people treat images in our culture especially in regard to learning to draw. Let’s start with the first one…

1) Art as an identifying label to justify comics’ worth

My notion of visual language is largely about drawing — and moreso about drawing sequences of images. Those drawings (and sequences) are governed by mental rules, and by nature are what I’d call a “visual language.”

Whether you want to call that use of the visual language “Art” largely depends on its context. Not all drawings are conceived of as “Art” (though they are sometimes terminologically conflated) — but nor are all uses of the English language called “Art.” (…unless you’re post-modern enough to say that everything is “art,” which is fine, though I think it fails as a useful notion if it’s so all-inclusive).

The point is that the label “Art” is applied interpretively to whatever it’s talking about — be it process or form (issue #1).

I have no real desire to “define” the notion of “art” — I agree with the cliché that “I know it when I see it,” and I generally think that’s true for most people. But, for a notion so categorically vague, how can it inherently apply to anything? Why should this notion of “comics” (the socio-cultural context that this visual language is used in) be inherently “Art” at all?

And, perhaps more important to people’s concerns usually… how can such an ephemeral concept be used to defend the notion and status of “comics” in society?

This idea is prescriptive: Playing the role of a critic, I think defining “comics” as “art” is less effective toward their gaining public acceptance than a notion of visual language.

2) “Art” as a sociocultural frame for treating drawings

Issue #2 of my “art vs. language” track has to do with the forces of influence on how people (and especially children) learn to draw. This is where I trot out the “Art Perspective” as a notion of the cultural forces of a particular mentality that work to temper the way people in our society draw, but I’ll leave that to other posts.

This idea is descriptive: Playing the role of an academic, I’m only making analysis of the various evidence and concepts involved, and am not advocating for any type of practice per se.

In any case, I love that Nathan devoted such a long post to all this (and seems to continue to prod my stuff), and look forward to reading what else he comes up with.


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