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Photography

Vignette: Steve Squall


"Wabi-sabi is the quintessential Japanese aesthetic. It is a beauty of things imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete. It is a beauty of things modest and humble. It is a beauty of things unconventional..." — Leonard Koren


Photographer, Steve Squall

Photographer, Steve Squall

Photographer Steve Squall’s images luxuriously embrace old school Black & White tonalities and the now-rare use of nude models in nature. As an artist, he is seeking to reconnect to the fundamentals, an intention driven by a specific, almost spiritual motivation.

“My current body of work focuses on the female form with an emphasis on the Japanese aesthetic philosophy of Wabi-Sabi,” explains Squall. “The images focus on simplicity in execution, embracing spontaneity - the ‘happy accident’, and finding the beauty in imperfection. It's largely a reaction to the highly produced work that I do for a living that often requires an entire team of creatives, heavy attention to detail, and a sizable amount of equipment to create.”  

"Kasho" by by Steve Squall, 20x20in, photograph (2016), $350 |  BUY NOW

"Kasho" by by Steve Squall, 20x20in, photograph (2016), $350 | BUY NOW

“Allowing myself to simply walk into a setting with nothing but a camera body, a single lens, a model, and just exploring while stopping to shoot when we find interesting scenes or stunning natural light has been quite a freeing experience. The work has helped me to rediscover the simple joy of just taking a photo without having a jumble of variables running through my head. It's reminiscent of the feeling I got so hooked on when I first picked up a camera and would just point it at whatever I thought looked interesting without worrying about too much else.”

"Wabi-Sabi Portfolio No. 1" by by Steve Squall, 810in, photographs (2016), $350 |  BUY NOW

"Wabi-Sabi Portfolio No. 1" by by Steve Squall, 810in, photographs (2016), $350 | BUY NOW

Squall’s images are classic in their juxtaposition of the soft human flesh against the stark and harsh textures of the elements. A woman stretched out across a large rock, her hair spread across the surface, is a formal study in contrasting textures, but also a suggestion of humankind in relationship to the environment, the artificial raiment of society discarded but the exposed flesh separated from nature by a vulnerability that cannot be so easily erased.

“I liken the experience to the famous quote attributed to Picasso: "It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child." Well, it took me more than four years to photograph like a pro, and now I'm learning how to photograph like a child.”

Hometown: Shively, Kentucky
Education: BA in Graphic Design, Indiana University Southeast, 2009.
Website: www.stevesquall.com

"Cassandra No. 1" by by Steve Squall, 20x26in, photograph (2016), $350 |  BUY NOW

"Cassandra No. 1" by by Steve Squall, 20x26in, photograph (2016), $350 | BUY NOW

"Enso" by by Steve Squall, 20x20in, photograph (2016), $350 |  BUY NOW

"Enso" by by Steve Squall, 20x20in, photograph (2016), $350 | BUY NOW

Written by Keith Waits. Entire contents copyright © 2017 Louisville Visual Art. All rights reserved.

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Photography

Vignette: Kent Krugh


“The tools of the trade, having faithfully imaged for decades, have themselves been imaged.” — Kent Krugh


"Univex Mercury I Model CC" by Kent Krugh, 13x19in, x-ray archival pigment print (2016), $400 |  BUY NOW

"Univex Mercury I Model CC" by Kent Krugh, 13x19in, x-ray archival pigment print (2016), $400 | BUY NOW

Introspection, that ability for self-examination unique to humanity, is nothing new for an artist - It’s what lies at the core of many artists’ motivation.  In these new images from photographer Kent Krugh, he goes Meta with the concept, deconstructing the camera and pondering the essential nature of his equipment instead of himself.

“This work uses x-rays to explore the microevolution of cameras and is a metaphor about the limits of evolution. While form and media may have changed, the camera is still a camera: a tool to create images by capturing photons of light. Today’s sophisticated digital cameras look and operate far differently than the first cameras of the nineteenth century, however the essentials have not changed. The photographer points a contraption with a lens towards the subject to encode its likeness on a storage medium, be it film or digital sensor. And this contraption has been manufactured in many wonderful and clever designs, the complexity usually hidden inside. While making these x-rays, I have been surprised and astonished by what I found inside the cameras. The lens, when imaged from the side, contains a multi-element train of perfectly shaped glass forms whose purpose is to collect and direct light towards the target.

"Speed Graphic" by Kent Krugh, 13x19in,   x-ray archival pigment print (2016), $400 |  BUY NOW

"Speed Graphic" by Kent Krugh, 13x19in, x-ray archival pigment print (2016), $400 | BUY NOW

Speciation is the process where new species can arise when populations are reproductively isolated. The can be due to random mutations and natural selection, or hybridization between closely related species. This process has been documented by many and is difficult to deny. Many insist that this is indeed evidence of evolution in action—given enough time this same process has given rise to all forms of life on earth. And many also insist that this process can indeed produce species and variation within species, but this is the limit of evolution—no one has ever seen a dog produce a non-dog. So, to close the loop—a camera is still a camera, though tremendous diversity exists.

"Keystone K-8" by Kent Krugh, 13x19in, x-ray archival pigment print (2016), $400 |  BUY NOW

"Keystone K-8" by Kent Krugh, 13x19in, x-ray archival pigment print (2016), $400 | BUY NOW

In quite another sense, this project pays homage to the cameras I have owned, used, or handled. The tools of the trade, having faithfully imaged for decades, have themselves been imaged. The resulting images align with an inner desire to probe those unseen spaces and realms I sense exist, but do not observe with my eyes.”

Krugh’s work can be seen right now at the Cincinnati Art Galleries in the exhibit Return to Beauty: Asian Influence on Contemporary Landscape Art, March 3l April 22, and later this year at the Center for Fine Art Photography, Ft. Collins, Colorado in Black & White, which will run July 7-August 19.

In 2016, he was a part of, Inside the Gate, Museo de Artes Plásticas Eduardo Sívori, Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Hometown: Cincinnati, Ohio
Age: 61
Education: MS, Radiological Sciences, University of Cincinnati, 1978 BA, Physics, Ohio Northern University, 1977
Gallery Representation: Gallery on Wade, Toronto, Ontario; Costello-Childs Gallery, Scottsdale, AZ; Gallery 708, Cincinnati, OH
Website: http://www.kentkrugh.com

"Nikon D300" by Kent Krugh, 13x19in, x-ray archival pigment print (2016), $400 |  BUY NOW

"Nikon D300" by Kent Krugh, 13x19in, x-ray archival pigment print (2016), $400 | BUY NOW

"Polaroid 440" by Kent Krugh, 13x19in, x-ray archival pigment print (2016), $400 |  BUY NOW

"Polaroid 440" by Kent Krugh, 13x19in, x-ray archival pigment print (2016), $400 | BUY NOW

"  Mamiyaflex C2" by Kent Krugh, 13x19in, x-ray archival pigment print (2016), $400 |  BUY NOW

"Mamiyaflex C2" by Kent Krugh, 13x19in, x-ray archival pigment print (2016), $400 | BUY NOW

Written by Keith Waits. Entire contents copyright © 2017 Louisville Visual Art. All rights reserved.

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Painting, Illustration, Mixed Media

Feature: Michael John Braaksma


“What I’m doing 25 or 30 years later is an echo of what I did as a four year old…”
– Michael John Braaksma


Michael John Braaksma in his studio.  Photo by Sarah Katherine Davis for LVA.

Michael John Braaksma in his studio. Photo by Sarah Katherine Davis for LVA.

Michael John Braaksma is a sculptor, puppeteer, and a scenic and costume designer for theatre. In a curatorial statement, Braaksma described his practice; “His multidisciplinary approach to art-making blends drawing, painting, sculpture, illustration, puppetry, mask-making, theatrical design and art direction together to create spectacular visual narratives. Folk tales, oral narratives, and mythologies linking inhabitants with their land and culture are of particular importance to Michael’s work.”

Still from 'Unicorn Xing' Tyler McDAniel cinematographer. Puppets and Set by Michael John Braaksma.

Still from 'Unicorn Xing' Tyler McDAniel cinematographer. Puppets and Set by Michael John Braaksma.

He recently wrapped his first short film based around his puppetry, and is beginning to work on a children’s book. 

“I’m a visual story teller. That’s a description that fits the all encompassing approach to my work,” said Braaksma. 

In his studio, there are characters hanging from the walls; some are fully formed, some are just heads or faces. Many actually are puppets, but others are stand-alone art objects, some sized to be affordable at art fairs and events like the Flea Off Market.  Regardless of the artistic purpose of each character, they all seem ready to spring to life at any moment. “All my work has a strong sense of narrative,” said Braaksma. “They are all named, with rich back stories, and complex rationales as to why my little entities are here.”

The artist was born in Wisconsin, and comes to Louisville by way of Chicago, and time spent at Hope College in Michigan for a BA in scenic and costume design. In between Braaksma’s story takes a bit of a turn. “It’s essentially Mean Girls,” joked Braaksma, citing the popular film about a young American girl who grows up in Africa. 

"Memories of places I've never been" by Michael John Braaksma, 18x24in, acrylic on canvas, $400 |  BUY NOW

"Memories of places I've never been" by Michael John Braaksma, 18x24in, acrylic on canvas, $400 | BUY NOW

“When I was two, my parents decided they loved Jesus a lot, and became missionaries. They move the family to the Kenya-Somalia border, with no electricity or running water.” Braaksma lived in Kenya from age two to age nine and he says the time affected him greatly. “I’m doing some clay sculpture right now and it ties me back, there was a seasonal river where all the local children would sculpt animals, so what I’m doing 25 or 30 years later is an echo of what I did as a four year old kid in remote Africa.”

Braaksma believes in free sculpting each piece rather than casting his work. “I do everything free sculpting. Especially for the work I do, and the voice of the characters I’m drawing out, the idea of each form having its own shape and angle,” said Braaksma as he worked on a series of small unicorns he was preparing.  “Even though the work I’m doing now is related, it’s unique in a way, and I think there is a movement to those precious things.”

"Celestial Nymph" by Michael John Braaksma, 12x10x6in, paper mache, fur, found objects, $300 |  BUY NOW

"Celestial Nymph" by Michael John Braaksma, 12x10x6in, paper mache, fur, found objects, $300 | BUY NOW

Braaksma says “precious things,” and one can almost hear the capital letters; his ideas about precious things key into his belief that there is a reaction to large corporation and the “Big Box” lives of many Americans. They want smaller hand made items - Precious Things. 

In addition to informing his practice of sculpture, Braaksma says his time in Kenya changed the way he imagined. “Being so young and having such totally different extreme experiences of reality, it sort of shapes the imagination and what you see as possible. Reality and your existence seems more fluid when you’re used to stretching your brain at an early age, being bilingual and all that.”

"Wilbur the octopus" by Michael John Braaksma, 16x20in, mixed media on canvas, NFS

"Wilbur the octopus" by Michael John Braaksma, 16x20in, mixed media on canvas, NFS

For his recently wrapped short film, Braaksma, worked with local filmmaker Tyler McDaniel. Braaksma says the film reflects his own inner life. “It’s funny, but there’s some cynicism, as makers, people interested in our own narratives and our own sense of value, do we lose the context of seeing our selves as directional, are we missing the boat on where we’re going? I feel that way.” He added, “Sometimes my world become small and isolated.”

Braaksma believes that strong images, such as the handmade creatures and characters of his work, are necessary to reach modern audiences. “Strong visuals are so critical for pounding through this facade, the sarcasm or cynicism, or dismissive nature of story telling that has erupted because of our over exposure to constant media.” 

Hometown: Louisville, Kentucky
Age: 32
Education: BA in Theatre, emphasis in costume & design, Hope College, MI
Website: https://lamaland.carbonmade.com/

"Terrence the Turtle" by Michael John Braaksma, 5x7in, acrylic on paper, $100 |  BUY NOW

"Terrence the Turtle" by Michael John Braaksma, 5x7in, acrylic on paper, $100 | BUY NOW


Eli-Keel.jpg

This Feature was written by Eli Keel.
Eli Keel is a Louisville based freelance journalist focused on arts and culture. Nationally he’s written Salon.com, The MarySue.com, Howlround.com, and Pointe Magazine out of New York. Locally he’s written for Louisville Public Radio’s news division, both the radio and the web (wfpl.com), Insiderlouisville.com, LEO Weekly and Leoweekly.com. He’s also contributed to Louisville Magazine, The Voice Tribune, Modern Louisville, Churchill Downs Magazine, arts-louisville.com, and thecoffeecompass.comHe also writes plays.


Entire contents copyright © 2016 Louisville Visual Art. All rights reserved.

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Painting

Vignette: Benjamin Duke


“How much monster, Duke’s Paintings ask us, are we willing to feel in ourselves, to accept, to affirm? What are the limits to which our egos restrict us, and what attractions and sensations liberate us from the cage of self? What aspirations and endeavors, Ben Duke’s paintings keep asking, lead beyond all compromises and reveal to us, finally what a body can think and do and feel.”  — From Brian Kubarycz’s introductory essay to the catalogue entitled: Benjamin Duke 2001-2010: Ten years of Work with essays by Brian Kubarycz, and Su YuAnn, published by Garden City Publishing.


"Persistent Remainders" by Benjamin Duke, 60x65in, oil (2016), $8500 |  BUY NOW

"Persistent Remainders" by Benjamin Duke, 60x65in, oil (2016), $8500 | BUY NOW

Benjamin Duke returns to exhibit in Louisville 11 months after presenting his painting “Louisville 2015: Full of Life, Now” (2015), to Metro Hall. He was Louisville’s first participant in a visiting artist initiative, introduced in 2015 as part of the Mayor’s Music & Art Series. The painting is on display in the Mayor’s Conference Room at Metro Hall.

Duke’s work takes our recognizable existence and twists it with pretzel logic. It is immediately accessible yet touches upon deeper currents: “In my paintings I ask myself “Is this the way the world is?’ I reshape and retool my painting experience to answer that question.  But while the question begins with the world, it ends with the work itself: “Is this the way the world is in this work?”

The search is for the world in painting and painting in the world (painting worlds / painting’s world). Am I in the world or is the world in me? I allude to my life, to writers works, to imagery and it is my hope that this record of allusion conjures and creates the same. I am referring to text, theory, idea but I am also finding myself already there, looking out to see in.”

"Awakening as Self-Identity Matrix #2" by Benjamin Duke, 60x60in, oil, $8500 |  BUY NOW

"Awakening as Self-Identity Matrix #2" by Benjamin Duke, 60x60in, oil, $8500 | BUY NOW

It wasn't a Dream, It was a Real Place, Duke’s new exhibit, will run December 16, 2016 through January 27, 2017 in University of Louisville’s Cressman Center for Visual Arts at 100 East Main Street. There will be an Artist’s Reception open to the public December 16 from 6 pm to 8 pm.

"Lingua Franca #2" by Benjamin Duke, 60x72in, oil (2016), $10,000 |  BUY NOW

"Lingua Franca #2" by Benjamin Duke, 60x72in, oil (2016), $10,000 | BUY NOW

Duke is Associate Professor of painting at Michigan State University. Born in Louisville, Kentucky, he received his Master of Fine Arts from the Maryland Institute College of Art Hoffberger School of Painting. His work has been exhibited in solo and group exhibitions from Chicago to Taiwan. Duke has also been awarded international residencies at Bamboo Curtain Studios, The Kuandu Museum of Fine Art at Taipei National University of the Arts, and the Vermont Studio Center.

Hometown: Louisville, KY
Education: BFA, University of Utah, Painting and Drawing Emphasis, 2002; MFA, Maryland Institute College of Art, Hoffberger School of Painting, 2006.
Website: http://www.bendukeart.com/
Gallery Representative: Ann Nathan Gallery (Chicago), A Gallery (Salt Lake City)

"TXT" by Benjamin Duke, 65x87in, oil (2016), $10,000 |  BUY NOW

"TXT" by Benjamin Duke, 65x87in, oil (2016), $10,000 | BUY NOW

"Awakening as Self-Identity Matrix #4" by Benjamin Duke, 65x72in, oil (2016), $8500  |  BUY NOW    

"Awakening as Self-Identity Matrix #4" by Benjamin Duke, 65x72in, oil (2016), $8500  | BUY NOW   

"Lingua Franca" by Benjamin Duke, 44x54in, oil (2016), $8500 |  BUY NOW

"Lingua Franca" by Benjamin Duke, 44x54in, oil (2016), $8500 | BUY NOW

Written by Keith Waits. Entire contents copyright © 2016 Louisville Visual Art. All rights reserved.

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Q&A: Sid Webb


“Art is a creation that aptly describes its time and place.”
— Sid Webb


"Untitled #1" by Sid Webb, 6x18in, ash and honeysuckle (2016), $350 |  BUY NOW

"Untitled #1" by Sid Webb, 6x18in, ash and honeysuckle (2016), $350 | BUY NOW

Sid Webb is a Lexington native who studied journalism at the University of Kentucky and attended the Atlanta School of Art. He came back to Kentucky to be the first art director at the Kentucky Educational Television network (KET), where he was an early advocate of using the digital canvas to create art and to make gicleé prints. He created a 13-part show for public television called Sid Webb’s Digital Studio, in which he demonstrated several ways to create art and paintings on a computer. After many years at KET, Webb turned to travel and editorial photography.

When did you first think you would be an artist?

I was convinced at a very early age that I would be an artist…maybe 10 or 12 years old.  I had done some freelance work for the new IBM plant in high school and local TV stations plus some other work in high school. Sometimes clinging adamantly to such an idea can lead one astray, as it did me. I joined the Air Force after my freshman year in college. At that time the military was very sensitive to the criticism that they were assigning recruits to the wrong jobs and they had developed an elaborate test to discover one’s potential military vocation. I insisted that I wanted to be a graphic artist and passed the test with a near 100 percent score. No portfolio was required. Just several hours of reading questions and guessing at answers to questions like “Which Speedball pin tip would you use to letter a diploma?” Even though I had passed the test, there were few graphic artists needed in the Air Force. No openings were available. There were plenty of openings for cooks and cops, however, and those occupations were in the same category as graphic artists for some reason. I opted for cop.

"Urn" by Sid Webb, about 11in tall, cherry wood (2016), $1200 |  BUY NOW

"Urn" by Sid Webb, about 11in tall, cherry wood (2016), $1200 | BUY NOW

If you could do anything else but make art, what would it be?

Fortunately, during my career I found several creativity roles that were very fulfilling. After college and art school, I came back to Kentucky to work for KET just as it was going on the air. During those early years I did set designs and construction, make-up, newsletters, ads, photography…you name it. Later, I became director of production, and then created and headed a department that sold and distributed KET programs to stations in other states. Surprisingly, that time was perhaps the most fun and productive. We were distributing GED and adult literacy programs and I tried to break new ground in reaching those who could benefit from KET’s creations. I had workbooks translated to Spanish and programs subtitled. I looked for ways to make the content work on computers and audiotapes. I looked for ways to help adult education centers.  Perhaps most importantly, I explored ways to get the message of “help” to those who needed it. In the process I met some very talented and wonderful people and felt gratified. 

You were an early practitioner of digital art and the use of computers for reproductions. What do see as the future of digital art?

I had one of those "ah-ha" moments sometime ago. I was thinking about the artwork and photography I have done over the last few years.

Early on, I became enamored with the possibilities for digital printmaking and the computer as an art-making tool. I also knew that inkjet prints would face stiff opposition from galleries and buyers. I thought the process needed to be elevated and legitimized, so I invented a new term for it: "digitography".

I pat myself on the back for seeing the need, and kick myself for not being outrageously inventive.

For my intended purpose, any word that too easily revealed its derivation like digitography did was destined for the scrape heap, where it soon found itself. The word that emerged and quickly claimed proper respect among the art community was "gicleé". It was a flash of brilliance.

"Untitled #2" by Sid Webb, about 11in tall, spalted maple and catalpa (2016), $800 |  BUY NOW

"Untitled #2" by Sid Webb, about 11in tall, spalted maple and catalpa (2016), $800 | BUY NOW

It didn't matter that the true definition could be easily discovered, which is "to spit," or "to sputter". What mattered was that it had a nice ring to it.  The beauty of the choice was that it is a French word, always nice sounding; and it helped that France was the birthplace of modern, avant-garde art. Also, it helped that the definition of gicleé, even when discovered, did not immediately reveal its connection to the mechanical and digital aspects of computers.

That leads me to the "ah-ha" about what I have been doing.

I have been doggedly creating "paintings" on the computer that looked as though they were created with traditional media. Again, I wanted to legitimize the computer as an art tool, and I have been trying to do it by demonstrating that my approach worked as well as other tools by inviting comparisons.

The epiphany was the realization that every new medium first gained legitimacy in this way. For instance, early films and radio productions "translated" books and theater before it found firm artistic footing of its own.

Even though I am someone who adopted the computer early on as an art tool, others have moved beyond "translations".  I decided I would, too.

What advice would you give a young artist just out of college?

The challenge is how to pay off the student loan, pay the rent, and have enough money left over to create art the way you want to do it. Facing this reality is often shocking and overwhelming . . . and defeating. I have a lawyer friend who told me that in law school he learned the law but left school with no idea how to practice it or run a business. That’s so very true of young artists just finishing their degrees. How to sell art is the very first thing a graduate needs to learn. I suggest an internship with a successful artist or photographer. Working in a craft shop or gallery is also a great option. 

Tell us about an important moment of transition for you as an artist?

Retiring from my day job freed me to explore the world around me . . . libraries, museums, friends, travel. I was usually free to spend as much as I wished on my art projects. I had no deadlines, self imposed or otherwise as a rule.

"Untitled #3" by Sid Webb, about 16in tall, wood (2016), $180 |  BUY NOW

"Untitled #3" by Sid Webb, about 16in tall, wood (2016), $180 | BUY NOW

What's your favorite place to visit?

Tough question. I love France because I have an insatiable appetite for great food, and it is hard to find mediocre or bad food in France. France, like so many other places I have visited, is candy to the eye and fresh air to the inner spirit. I am able to see and feel that which has become too familiar to local people. I do love my home but there lives within me a need to see beyond the next horizon.

What's the most challenging part when starting on a piece of work of art?

How to create the next piece and push beyond my “style”. My style is like my shadow. It is glued to me and I have little control over it. I can walk around a room with a single light source in the center of it and my shadow will mutate, but I still own it. I can’t shake it. But I try.

How long do you usually spend on a specific piece of art?

It depends. I may spend less than an hour to several days. Sometimes the pieces that take less than an hour to create have taken shape in my head over days.

Does art have a purpose? If so what is it?

It defines us, our place in time. Our culture. Our beliefs. None of this is too obvious until we travel and become aware of what surrounds us.

A few decades ago, André Malraux wrote a little book titled “Museum Without Walls” and I used it to make a compelling case that art is dead. Malraux thesis was that the industrial age had made it possible to exactly duplicate fine works of art so that people no longer had to flock to the museums of the world to see and appreciate them. 

In his view we needed to disconnect the ideas of “original,” and “art”. In other words the fact that a piece is an original or part of a limited edition may make it costly, but its cost doesn’t make it art. 

This of course leads back to the question of “what is art?” To be candid, the answer is a moving target with philosophical overtones. The layman’s answer often is “I don’t know what art is, but I know what I like.” That usually puts an end to the discussion as the remark is often intended to do. But there is a measure of truth in it. 

"Untitled #4" by Sid Webb, about 16in tall, wood (2016), $180 |  BUY NOW

"Untitled #4" by Sid Webb, about 16in tall, wood (2016), $180 | BUY NOW

The German word “gestault” describes that measure of truth. But the best way to think about it may be by using music as an analogy. Most people know when a singer or an instrumentalist hits a sour note or is off key. The ability to detect harmonic sounds is built into our physical make up, at least in most of us. We are painfully aware of singers who are off key or hit a bad note and we know when the rhythm is not quite right. But being aware of the correctness of those essentials of music doesn’t determine the kind of music we enjoy or make us good critics. 

In a general way, what most of us think of as good music has to do with lots of other things. If we play an instrument or sing in a group we are certain to pay closer attention to music than others who don’t. The music we grew up listening to affects our appreciation of it and how we feel about music outside of that genre, too. 

As with music there are physical attributes we humans have that determine our feelings about art. Perhaps surprisingly, one is in our inner ears that keep us balanced and on our feet. Gravity and that liquid in our inner ears keeps us keenly attuned to weight and what’s up and what's down. 

The physical mechanics of the way most of us see color is another factor. Some people are color blind or “tone deaf” to color, but most of us know when colors clash. It takes only a little experimentation to sharpen ones sensitivity to the harmonies of color, but as with music, our taste in color has much to do with our cultural background and where we live. 

So in both music and art we humans share common tools for creating and appreciating them. From there, defining what is good or bad, great or worthless becomes a stroll in the wilderness of philosophical thought that leads to questions like these: 

"Untitled #5" by Sid Webb, about 16in tall, spalted maple and walnut dowels (2016), $325 |  BUY NOW

"Untitled #5" by Sid Webb, about 16in tall, spalted maple and walnut dowels (2016), $325 | BUY NOW

— Is craftsmanship important or necessary? 
— Can utilitarian objects like knifes and forks, pottery, etc., be considered art? 
— What’s the difference between arts and crafts? 
— Is folk art really art? 
— Is performance art, art? 
— Should commercial art be considered as worthy? 
— Does museum ownership make it art? 
— Must an artist know art history to create “real” art? 
— Should photography be considered art? 
— If a sculptor creates a model that someone else casts into bronze, should the piece be considered art? 
— What if the sculptor intends that only one piece be cast but two are actually made. Is the second piece art? 
— Must a work have lasting value to be considered art? 
— Are movies to be considered as art?

Twenty-four images a second pass the shutter of a movie projector. Should we select only a few of the frames to consider as art or are each of the frames to be considered art? 

I could go on, but you get the idea. 

Music is also exposed to these same sorts of questions when trying to separate “great” music from the commonplace, but the answers are usually less vague and troubling. We all know what music is; because, it seems, we trust our ears more than our eyes, and because the word “music” never took on a double meaning as the word “art” has. It makes the discussion about great music easier. Music is also less complicated in other ways. Utilitarian items crafted by a master can be considered art, but elevator music remains merely utilitarian. 

Various details of Webb's work.

Various details of Webb's work.

Art critics will say that you cannot know what “art” is until you have immersed yourself in it. On the other hand I suspect many artists would tell you the process is more important to them than the product. 

In Kurt Vonnegut’s book, “Man without a Country,” Vonnegut, in his usual direct and pithy style, cuts to the chase on the subject. An artist friend told him the way to recognize great art is to look closely at a million pictures. Then he would know what art is. He told his daughter this and she agreed. She told him that after working as an artist for years she could roller skate through the Louvre going “yes, no, yes, no, no, yes,” confidently assessing the value of the works as art. 

I have my own definition of what “art” is that’s fairly encompassing but leaves a few corners uncovered. I choose to think of it as a creation that aptly describes its time and place and sometimes foreshadows its successor. 

I fill in the blanks from the gut.

Name: Sid Webb
Hometown: Lexington, KY
Age: 74
Education: Majored in journalism and political science, University of Kentucky; Atlanta School of Art (High Museum)
Website: http://www.sidwebb.com/

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