What is Art?

‘Art is what you can get away with’


There is an art studio tour Labor Day Weekend. You can follow the red dots through Grant County to find working artists doing what they do and chat with them too. In Lincoln County you can find the Alto Artists Tour Aug. 5-Aug. 7.

And most of our southern New Mexico communities now have a monthly evening for exploring the arts in our world from First Friday events in to Second Tuesdays in Las Cruces, and similar journeys in Alamogordo, Truth or Consequences and Silver City.

But what Is it all about?

There are those who say there are so many other things in the world to worry about, why is this seemingly frivolous pursuit even a thing?

And yet, art has been a thing since humans were a thing. From the caves of Lascaux in France where Neanderthals and early homo sapiens coexisted and someone left depictions on the walls. One could almost say, when man had tools, he created art. At Lascaux they made a “Hall of Bulls” populated ceilings with horses by mixing pigments and holding up animal fat lamps to illuminate the sunless places.

To me, art is about the nature of man. We, as a species, are here because somehow our brains grew creative. We created the wheel, we created ways to use fire to our benefit, we created our own future world of cities and farms and internal angst. We create our problems, ways to deal with death, and instruments of war. All of this happened through vision, the visualization of the possible through the experience of the past.

So clearly, I think, art is not only something we do, but something we are and, as such, not only inevitable but necessary to our existence. And the creative arts are not flat, they expand three-dimensionally into fibrous, metal and stone forms; they reach into music which can send us up and down and everywhere in between; and into the written word that can take us into places strange, romantic, frightening and peaceful.

Speaking of the written word, don’t forget to send your entries to our writing contest where everything – poetry, essays and stories – is welcome. The only constraints are that it has to be under 4,000 words and relate to southern New Mexico. The deadline is Aug. 15 and the email to send them to is editor@desertexposure.com.

Back to art.

Exploring the arts in southern New Mexico one tour at a time can be an engaging and learning experience. We learn about the people who thrive on this form of creation, haling back to those creators of the species and we see how the world effects them today. Because after all art is “communication” (Karen Conley), a way to express the things inside that need expressing. It can be a way to stat an opinion, or a feeling or to create a different view of the world.

Art is a way of grasping the world. Not only the physical world but the internal world and the whole universe at the same time, the world of society and spiritual experience.

This is all too cerebral though, because art doesn’t have to be any of those things, it is what you want it to be. Bob Ross was not a “great” artist, he was a lovely one. His gentle paintings and manner were not about anything other than creating pretty pictures and connecting with people. His paintings were teachings in life, a conduit telling us “We don’t make mistakes, just happy little accidents.”

So here in the words of some of my friends are some definitions of art: “Escapism, thought provocative imagination” (Alice Carruth); “Creation” (Annika Kageyama); “A visual emotion” (Paula Geisler); “Creativity Birthed” (Mary C. Barce); “Crochet” Yoli Rubio Armas-May; and “A creative force of life” (Kathleen Deasey).

It was Andy Warhol who said, “Art is what you can get away with.”