The painting to the left is called Green Jacket. A guy named Alex Katz painted it in 1990, and it currently hangs in the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh. Outside of the 15 seconds it took me to Google “Green Jacket, artist”, I have no idea who Alex Katz is, where he’s from, or who his favorite rock band is. I’m content in my ignorance of both Katz and where Green Jacket falls in the infinite (and arbitrary) spectrum of what constitutes good art from bad art.
All I know is that weeks after a group of us spent an hour or two combing through the Carnegie – a storehouse of priceless antiquities and work from some of the most well-known artists in the world – I still remember that piece more than any other I saw that day. I love how simple it is, the conclusions one can draw from the man’s cartoonish rendering. When Lindsey asked me what my favorite piece was that day, she was a bit confused about my choice.
In our frequent conversations on the subject (mostly while walking the dog), Lindsey and I have yet to yield a single sufficient answer to the question, What makes good art good?* We have our guesses, but our lack of anything definitive is a testament to art’s subjectivity. There are just too many layers of complexity to consider. Right about this point in our conversation is when I’m left thinking of the artist who is guided solely by his or her own interpretation of what others deem “good”. That ambiguity must be maddening. Better, I would think, to rely on one’s intuition, however seasoned or unseasoned it may be, and just make work that the creator himself deems good. The crowd – whoever and wherever it resides currently – will come around, and even if it never does, we’ll at least have our sanity.
* And by “art”, I mean “work you’d find in an art museum”.