What Is Art?

Posted: March 9, 2010 in Poetry

Away again… this time I was in Feeding Hills, MA for a Kotei (Legend of the Five Rings regional championship). My friend Gilles won the whole thing. I came 19th (out of 90+). I have another one coming up the first week on April here in Ottawa.

I had a good time but it meant I missed the latest CapSlam where Vocab edged out Truth Is… by a mere .1 for the victory!

But for now… back to poetry!

CONTEXT: February, 2008

Kevin Matthews had invited me (along with a bunch of other people) to take part in a program for students at the National Art Gallery. Our role would be to write poems inspired by pieces of art in the gallery. We would then perform each piece for students while standing in front of the art.

I did two pieces. This is the one I wrote right away. I wrote another as we got closer to the date of the performance.

This piece was inspired by BGL’s The Discourse of Elements. It also has links (obviously) to my earlier piece, Why Art?

BGL’s piece was in two sections and I was inspired by the outer part where the site was made up to look like garage shelves, crammed to the rafters with the usual junk you find in an old garage. It made me specualate on the nature of art. I said art is everywhere and here was proof.

    What is Art?

I have asked why art
And why art and why art
Trying to make sense of the question
Provoking discussion and dissension
Because if art can be prioritized
Can’t it also be itemized?

To know why art is
We need to now what art is
And what an artist is
And where the artist fits
In a society where cash is king
And more ‘practical’ things
Push art to the fringe
And the ability to buy and sell
Is valued more than the ability
To create.

Art is put in a box
It is a painting
Or a sculpture
Or a song
Or a poem

When form defines form
Defined by acceptable norms
Art becomes easy
Asking little of the audience
Other than oohing and aahing
Over technique and beauty.

Yet nature is an artist
Painting trees in greens and browns
Showing emotions in stones
And meaning in water.

A person is art
When they pose or repose
The line of a brow or slope of a nose,
The fist in anger
Or tender kiss
Because emotions are art
So aren’t we all artists?

To find art you have to look,
But not too hard
Because it is everywhere.

A can of paint has run over,
Boots trampled through clover,
Christmas decorations,
Not on a tree
But surrounded by a box of cardboard.
Art in potential.

Look at the grain of wood,
Touch it with flame
And see beauty in charcoal.
Tools for art.
Art as tools.

Can art exist
Without appreciation?
Isn’t art a coversation
Between artist and audience?
If art is in the ear and eye
What of the hand?
If art is a broken computer
Or bits of metal
Or a torn piece of cloth
Then what is an artist?

An artist is glass,
A window or mirror,
A scientist’s microscope
Or funhouse reflection

An artist is a megaphone
Demanding attention
To the world outside and in
All its flaws and perfections.

An artist is a frame or signal.
An artist is the voice inside your head
That reminds you that art matters.

All you need to do is listen
And the world becomes your gallery.


Next up is the most experimental piece I have ever done

  1. […] in the post for What is Art?, I talked about a show we did at the National Art Gallery. This is the second poem I wrote and […]

  2. […] It was a lot of fun. The pieces I did were Step Back and What is Art? […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s