Piquing The Artistic Impulse

A little irreverence today after talking about philosophical questions like “what is art for?”

In the past few years, I have done a lot of writing about the need to help people recognize they have the capacity to be creative.

When I was in Pittsburgh a couple weeks ago, I visited the Warhol Museum and found myself inspired by some of the projects he engaged in. Much of what he did was an attempt to take the idea of art off a pedestal and bring it into everyday experience.

There was one piece in particular that appealed to me, though perhaps for the wrong reasons.

Among the museum collection was one of Warhol’s Oxidation Paintings. The piece was created by priming the canvas with metallic paint and then applying a substance that would cause a oxidation reaction.

In Warhol’s case, it was urine.

According to the card next to the painting, he and his friends and assistants:

“…experimented with both pattern and coloration…Variations in the maker’s fluid and food intake affected the oxidation impact…Warhol was particularly thrilled by the striking colorations caused by his studio assistant Ronnie Cutrone, who was taking vitamin B supplements.

Oxidation Painting, 1978

As much as you may be disgusted by the idea, (and lets face it, most paint is more toxic than urine), you have to admit that the technique would definitely pique the interest and desire to experiment in many people.

Okay, sure it might be more appealing to younger males and females, but males often see art as an effeminate activity as it. This is a way to engage more men!

I will confess that I sent this picture and information about how it was made to my friends who hold creative process events and made a tongue-in-cheek suggestion this be the next project.   While you can’t create an authentic relationship with creativity and the arts through stunt events like this, the example of it can combat the image of art as staid and inscrutable.

Even if someone looks at the painting above and says it isn’t art based on appearance alone, they can at least connect with the impulse behind its creation because everyone has had a related impulse at some point in their lives. (And may even continue to harbor that impulse in their hearts.)  You have an entirely different conversation and relationship with this piece than you would have if Warhol used ink or paint to create images many might associate with Rorschach blots.

About Joe Patti

I have been writing Butts in the Seats (BitS) on topics of arts and cultural administration since 2004 (yikes!). Given the ever evolving concerns facing the sector, I have yet to exhaust the available subject matter. In addition to BitS, I am a founding contributor to the ArtsHacker (artshacker.com) website where I focus on topics related to boards, law, governance, policy and practice.

I am also an evangelist for the effort to Build Public Will For Arts and Culture being helmed by Arts Midwest and the Metropolitan Group. (http://www.creatingconnection.org/about/)

My most recent role was as Executive Director of the Grand Opera House in Macon, GA.

Among the things I am most proud are having produced an opera in the Hawaiian language and a dance drama about Hawaii's snow goddess Poli'ahu while working as a Theater Manager in Hawaii. Though there are many more highlights than there is space here to list.


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