“But it seems to be less obvious somehow that to create anything at all in any field, and especially anything of outstanding worth, requires nonconformity, or want of satisfaction with things as they are. The creative person–the nonconformist–may be in profound disagreement with the present way of things, or he may simply wish to add his views, to render a personal account of matters…
…Without the person of outspoken opinion, however, without the critic, without the visionary, with the nonconformist, any society of whatever degree of perfection must fall into decay. Its habits (let us say its virtues) will inevitably become entrenched and tyrannical; its controls will become inaccessible to the ordinary citizen.
But I do not wish to underrate the importance of the conformist himself–or perhaps an apter term would be the conservative. In art, the conservative is the vigorous custodian of the artistic treasures of a civilization, of its established values and its tastes…However greatly the creative artist may chafe at entrenched conservatism, it is still quite true that his own work is both sustained and enriched by it…
…Nonconformity is the basic pre-condition of art, as it is the precondition of good thinking and therefore of growth and greatness in a people.”
~Ben Shahn, On Nonconformity
I just finished updating my website. There are a lot of new drawings and two completely new galleries in the portfolio section. Be sure to check it out and share it with your friends!
“Abstraction is perhaps the most classic of the contemporary points of view. IT sometimes seems to have much in common with that art which has sought to reject content, but actually it has not, for in the case of abstraction content is its point of departure, its cue, and its theme. To abstract is to draw out the essence of a matter. To abstract in art is to separate certain fundamentals from the irrelevant material which surrounds them.”
~Ben Shahn The Shape of Content
“One cannot, I think, crowd into drawings a really towering content of feeling. Drawings may be small intimate revelations; they may be witty or biting , they may be fragmentary glimpses of great feeling or awesome situation, but I feel that the immense idea asks for a full orchestration of color, depth, texture, and form.” ~Ben Shahn, The Biography of a Painting
For the next few weeks I’d like to quote Ben Shahn’s book, The Shape of Content, for my Thursday Thoughts. I recently re-read Shahn’s book and found almost every word to be lucid and insightful. The book is actually a collection of essays and lectures and I will post one or two quotes from each chapter. I would highly recommend this book for any artist and it is on Amazon for less than $15.
“It has become obvious that art itself in America is without what might be called a natural environment. Art and artists often exist within a public climate that is either indifferent or hostile to their profession. Or otherwise they may concentrate within small colonies wherein they find a sort of self-protection and self-affirmation. The art colonies are severely limited in the variety of experience and opinion which they can contribute to art. They become almost monastic in the degree of their withdrawal from common society; and thus their art product becomes increasingly ingrown, tapping less and less the vital streams of common experience, rejecting more and more the human imperatives which have propelled and inspired art in past times.” ~Ben Shahn, Artists in Colleges