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  • A

    On Intention

    02.25.2013 / ART + DESIGN

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    Whenever I’m interviewing an artist or designer about their work, I always make sure to hit the usual suspects: “Where do you find your inspiration?” or “What’s a typical day like for you?” or – perhaps the most telling of all – “Peanut butter or jelly?” Yet, by far, the prompt that elicits the most refreshing answer has always been the simplest of questions: “Why?”

    Usually, an artist will reply with something deep and thought-provoking about nature or time or the meaning of life. Until, that is, Evonne Bellefluer answered…

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    “I don’t think art should be about communicating some ideology,” she writes in response to her latest work – a photographic collection of geometric blocks. “Art, like fashion, is meant to be enjoyed … something I look to to make me happy.”

    It’s a happiness that she, like myself, never explored academically. But because the interest was there – and because that interest sparked happiness – she pursued it regardless. “I had a conversation with a friend the other day who suggested that my art didn’t belong in a gallery setting because it had nothing to say. I completely disagree,” she writes.

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    It’s a belief system that few hold, but many should. “Art for art’s sake,” a phrase coined in 19th century France, holds a deep history that has evolved into a simpler meaning in today’s society: art holds value, whether or not it has a specific agenda. Artists create because they love to create, just as I write because I love to write.

    A professional chef might serve food to thousands of patrons in a busy restaurant, night after night. She might do so because she believes that quality food nourishes the soul, provides richness to conversation and fosters relationships. Or, she might simply love the creative outlet of mixing ingredients, experimenting with flavors, soiling her apron. Whether the intention lies in pushing an agenda vs. serving her own passions does not make her less-deserving of owning a restaurant and calling herself a chef. And it doesn’t change the taste of her food. Or does it?

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    Perhaps these tees exist simply because a designer noticed something beautiful in various typographic textures. But perhaps there’s a deeper purpose at work – perhaps these tees are meant for us to take pause and think about the future of our nation’s landscape, if only for a subconscious moment. Perhaps they’re meant to conjure up feelings of exploration and discovery. Perhaps, just maybe they were designed with intention.

    And I think that’s what makes art art. It’s not about meaning or purpose or passion. It’s about intention. It’s about making a conscious decision to create something with your hands, your mind, your spirit. Whether the finished product holds an agenda doesn’t matter, because the agenda does not exist in the object. It exists within us.

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    And sure, Evonne Bellefluer’s work might not have a specific agenda. But she does, whether she realizes it or not.

    (We all do.)

    Image Credits: Evonne Bellefluer

     Just for fun: Geometric paper sculptures, geometric handbags and geometric pinatas.

    • ditto that! I’ve always felt secretly shallow for wanting to make art just for fun. I feel empowered! And I LOVE the blocks.

      • @Laura – It’s funny how we often undermine our passions unless they’re contributing to an obvious meaning or serving a larger purpose, you know? Sometimes we need to remind ourselves to just DO. :)

    • Being immersed in the art world, reading artist statement after artist statement, many of them convoluted and nonsensical, it is incredibly refreshing to hear an artist say that she creates for the sake of making something enjoyable to look at. There is a place for work that has an intellectual or philosophical motive behind it and there is room for work created simply to be lovely to gaze upon. And the two aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive.

      Loved this post. Every word of it!

      • @Artsy Forager – Amen! There’s a time and place for so many things, and it’s often more beautiful when balanced. And gosh, artist statements can be INCREDIBLY convoluted, yes? :)

      • lesliek

        i agree 100% i often would feel lame when creating works at school because i didn’t have a weighty (and lengthy) reason for doing what i was doing. thank you!

    • & here you are again – dishing out more diamonds. I love slow-go Design For Mankind.

    • Lovely.

      I play jazz piano for fun and if I compare art making to music making, it all becomes clear to me. Musicians make music because they must. There is no agenda – it’s a drive that comes from within. Same with the impulse to create – it’s an itch to be scratched.

      The agenda or meaning often comes from the viewer – we experience a piece of art and make our own meaning.

    • Beautifully written and something that I struggle with all the time. Does art only have value because it has an overt message or ideology? We are encouraged to say what our work is about, but what if it is about a feeling, how do we express that. I personally make art because I have to rather than necessarily having a message to impart, I want people to feel something when they look at my work, to want to look because they think it’s beautiful. Somehow that has become an unfashionable thing to say. Thanks for sharing this.

    • refreshing and lovely to hear! thank you.

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