Here's a picture I painted on site in the high Sierra. It's a view of the mountains above Carson Pass from Hope Valley, south of Lake Tahoe. I painted it in late spring 2006, when the snow was still heavy on the mountains but the valley floor was green and lush. The Carson River was clear and cold.
In his essay, Baker quotes Hannah Arendt, who defined artworks as "''thought things,' that is, things that materialize thought, things to be thought about and, in rare cases, things to help us think." I take Baker's point to be that the role of the artist is to put spectacle together with consciousness and awareness: not only the thing made but the thing in its commentaries vis a vis the world at large and artistic movements and traditions. OK, I'll buy that. I honor Artists engaged in the struggle to use their skills, crafts, ears, eyes, and hands to talk to the world in the best of ways. I know that the personal is always political, and I know that there is an overt rhetoric to art in addition to the covert or "skill" rhetoric I discussed a few postings ago.
Fine. But where does this formulation of the Artist leave the artist, someone like me who's interested in using an artistic medium "merely" for the purpose of recording a zen moment, making something beautiful to enjoy looking at, or using as a spiritual practice? I am OK with being an artist rather than an Artist. But too I hold my own ambitions and opinions. My paintings are "thought things" too, especially embodying the thought that the older aims of art as a discipline and a preoccupation are far from defunct and obsolete. I am far from alone, as the growing atelier movement indicates.
I enjoyed painting this mountain scene, and I learned a lot in doing so about how snow lies on the flank of a Sierra peak.