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  • LaShonda Cooks

What is art?

“Are you buying those?” a voice squealed over my right shoulder. I had spent the last three hours packed like sardines between two other artists. Over the pounding beats of the DJ, we each tossed out smiles and answers about our work to passerbys. Let’s just say it wasn’t my night. As the guys fielded questions, I ended up passing out more of their cards than my own. I was happy for them. Every now and then someone would stop and point and oooh or ahhhh at a one of the three pieces I featured but it was just a fleeting interest, one quickly supplanted by the work of other artists hovering nearby.

Now, when I’ve decided to take down my paintings and call it a night, someone shows interest. I was done. “These are mine,” I tersely replied as I grabbed the pieces and walked away. Not my finest moment. Perhaps because the words of a couple of local art gallery owners were still searing my ego,

One questioned my imagination based on the paintings I showed him featuring famous faces. “Try something more mysterious,” he asked. Another asked why my pieces were so melodious. “Have you thought about switching things up, adding a monster in the background?” Both wanted me to dig deeper.

Ugh.

What is art? One of my favorite movies "Mona Lisa Smile answered this question brilliantly as the girls were told to examine a painting by Jackson Pollock. Does the artist's name beneath a piece instantly make it art? Does the content or the layered meanings denote a masterpiece? Or is it simply the mastery of technique on canvas or paper, regardless of subject matter? Is being pretty enough or does the painting have to own brains and beauty?

In the months after, I’ve taken some of these critics' words and questions into my studio. No monsters here

, but I have tried to more insightful with details, the thought process and reference material. More depth to the faces, whether famous or anonymous. My theme word for 2016 is elevate. Halfway through the year, I feel the growing pains of being stretched beyond my comfort, of saying no to shows and yes to more time creating, thinking, tinkering. The life of an artist is all about evolution. While I don’t dream of becoming an Andy Warhol, I do want my work to make viewers ooooh, ahhh and think. Thanks to the frank uncomfortable questioning from myself and others, I feel I am on track to elevating my craft. Thanks in advance for your support, patience and feedback during this process.

#LaShondaCooks #art #JacksonPollock #critics #gallery #elevate #painter #MonaLisaSmile

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