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Dear Young Artist [pdf] (stephenshore.net)
35 points by dmurthy 22 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 18 comments



> Art is made to explore the world and the culture, to explore the chosen medium, to explore one's self.

Creating for such purposes is admirable.

In my mind, tech is a mirror reflection of art; it (usually) starts from the context of a business or out of cold practicality, and occasionally rises to craftsmanship. Code rarely stands on beauty alone though, unlike art.


Art is about constraints. Engineering is about constraints. I am saddened somewhat but the seperation of art and science, it seems like a misunderstanding.

Being good at something is effectively being able to creatively deal with constraints and get good results. Trying to say science / engineering is different because the success function doesnt involve as much human opinion doesnt seem right.


> I am saddened somewhat but the separation of art and science, it seems like a misunderstanding.

I agree with this sentiment. Art and sciences used to be united. Both stem from the same place: the quest for answers and knowledge.


Everything that touches real world is about constrains - cooking, rising a child, paying off mortgage, doing a thousand pushups etc. So, the juxtaposition of art and engineering on this axis is not helpful.

The big distinction between art and engineering is that art is supposed to speak to us and move us in an subjective way, while engineering aims to create products which are objectively good solutions for a well-defined problems.


I suppose what i am getting at is two things:

Objectively good imho is as much a fallicy in the space of science and engineering as it is in art.

It takes the same artistic/creative skill to be a good engineer as it does an artist.

This is maybe a pedantic perspective, but i find it relevant.

Edit: objectively good for engineering is subjective expanation: you need requirements to define objectively good. I.e. sub optimal metrics to represent an entities value model. If you say hey, but engineers are structured/meticulous once they have the requirments.. i would say so are artists.


A lot of art starts out of business context, through the business context is entertainment, marketing or generally selling.


I studied art at Bard. Some of my best memories are late nights in the studios, everyone burning the midnight oil, and exploring the various installations people were building.

A lot of the professors were / are working artists — living in NYC, showing in galleries. Some are older luminaries.

Stephen was always a great presence and an inspiration to everyone. (The various arts departments were all very close.)

The part at the end of his letter reminds me of what Robin Williams said about reading “Goodwill Hunting” for the first time. He was like, “this is all about lived experience. How did these two young guys manage to write this?”

Ultimately there’s no shortage of talent in the world. What’s unique about a place like Bard is the community, the life experience, and the focus on becoming a student of all areas of life and academics.

Another favorite quote of mine was from a visual effects artist who worked on sci-fi shows in the 90s. He said, “you can learn all there is about making movies - but you need to have something to make movies about.”

In terms of commercialism, selling out, earning a living — whatever you want to call it: Andy Warhol has his big break when he was still drawing shoes for clothing companies, and Harrison Ford was working construction when he got his first break.


To me this missive reads as a response to some specific questions. It would have been nice to know what those questions were.

As an art teacher, I would not dream of writing something like this to a former student. It seems well-meant, but it also comes across as rather trite and not a little preachy.


> To me this missive reads as a response to some specific questions. It would have been nice to know what those questions were.

I wondered the same thing. What is the context for this reply?

> It seems well-meant, but it also comes across as rather trite and not a little preachy.

How do you form that judgement without knowing the questioner, the responder, their relationship, the question, or the context for the question?

I understand that you "would not dream of writing something like this". That's you.

In this case, the teacher prefaces his remarks with "However, for me, it has little to do with why I make art. I believe that art is made to explore the world and the culture, to explore the chosen medium, to explore one's self."

He sounds authentic, and the view he shares is clearly personal.

His advice counsels against ego or commerce centric exhibitionism, in favour of authenticity and art for art's sake.

That doesn't strike me as trite. What he says sounds heartfelt.


> How do you form that judgement without knowing the questioner, the responder, their relationship, the question, or the context for the question?

I stand by my position.

One thing I know as a teacher of art is that you are not doing your job unless your students replace you: their ideas of good/bad art replace yours, their points of reference and their system of values replace yours. Advice from old artists to young artists is a bit like your great grandfather teaching you how to play Pokémon Go.

I believe that this ongoing 'plowing under' is what distinguishes art from science. Scientists can build upon a body of knowledge, artists burn each preceding generation to the ground.


>To me this missive reads as a response to some specific questions. It would have been nice to know what those questions were.

As a lay person, it is easy to guess is buying and selling of art in the art world is filled with dirty money/money laundering. If you make a visit to art museums in New York, often if you have business card from one of investment banks, you get to go in admission free, it is because art museums are heavily funded by people from wall street. Not to say that everyone works at wall street are people without integrity, but you get the general idea.


you are saying a lot without actually talking about art itself.


We all know what "have a show in Chelsea" looks like today. The distribution model changed radically, but the personal drivers didn't. Surprisingly, the rise of new platforms only temporarily affected the old way's economics if you look at the number of photobooks published in the Netherlands. Until the first peak in 2005, these increased linearly, plateaued until 2012, and reached a new peak in 2017. While the supply of digital photography expanded, apparently so did the supply of physical photography books.


> We all know what "have a show in Chelsea" looks like today.

I don't. Care to elaborate?


I think they are referring to Instagram, twitter, etc for showing off art.


About Stephen Shore

Stephen Shore's work has been widely published and exhibited for the past forty-five years. He was the first living photographer to have a one-man show at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York since Alfred Stieglitz, forty years earlier. He has also had one-man shows at George Eastman House, Rochester; Kunsthalle, Dusseldorf; Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; Jeu de Paume, Paris; and Art Institute of Chicago. In 2017, the Museum of Modern Art opened a major retrospective spanning Stephen Shore's entire career. He has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. His series of exhibitions at Light Gallery in New York in the early 1970s sparked new interest in color photography and in the use of the view camera for documentary work.

More than 25 books have been published of Stephen Shore's photographs including Uncommon Places: The Complete Works; American Surfaces; Stephen Shore, a retrospective monograph in Phaidon's Contemporary Artists series; Stephen Shore: Survey and most recently, Transparencies: Small Camera Works 1971-1979 and Stephen Shore: Elements. In 2017, the Museum of Modern Art published Stephen Shore in conjunction with their retrospective of his photographic career. Stephen also wrote The Nature of Photographs, published by Phaidon Press, which addresses how a photograph functions visually. His work is represented by 303 Gallery, New York; and Sprüth Magers, London and Berlin. Since 1982 he has been the director of the Photography Program at Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, NY, where he is the Susan Weber Professor in the Arts.


When I got my masters in creative writing, the program director told us, almost daily, not to expect to make money from our writing. We would not be getting rich. It was a harsh, but realistic view. His point was that we should be writing for the right reasons. You shouldn’t be creating so that you become the next Stephen King. You should be writing to express your views and commentary on the world around you.


Here's another piece of writing from Stephen Shore's website, describing Benoit Mandelbrot's fractal geometry. The context Shore gives is different to that of a mathematician or an engineer, and yet harmonious with and complementary to both.

http://www.stephenshore.net/writing/fractal.pdf




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