My Top 40 Art Reflections


Alright, so, I do my best to pass along the
art and ideas of many different people on this channel. But today I’m going to speak
from my own experience and share forty reflections about art that feel something like the truth
to me… Or at least truth-adjacent… For now… Because everything is contingent. 40) Big things can happen in small places.
Think about Black Mountain College, where amazing makers and thinkers gathered together
to grow their own practices and teach the next generation from the 1930s to the 50s.
And it happened not in New York or Paris but on the side of a North Carolina Mountain.
Or there’s the 25 acres of sculptures and mosaic courtyards that Nek Chand created in
the north Indian city of Chandigarh. You can make art and do cool things anywhere, even
if the market is in only a few places. 39) You don’t have to like Picasso. You
can, but you don’t have to. 38) Almost everyone is suffering from a crushing
lack of confidence, even at fancy art parties. Perhaps especially at fancy art parties. 37) I like a lot of conceptual art, but that
doesn’t mean I don’t also appreciate draftsmanship and art that involves tremendous training
and skill. Master craftsmanship never gets old. And liking it doesn’t mean you can’t
enjoy different kinds of art, too. 36) As one of my art professors in college
once said, “Some people go to the moon. Some people paint a canvas red.” I took
it to mean: Lots of human activities are kind of crazy and arbitrary when you think about
it. But also, keep whatever you’re doing in perspective. 35) Context matters! Sometimes I like to squint
my eyes and imagine art that I see on a folding table at a sidewalk art fair on the wall at
MoMa. And conversely, imagine the artwork I see at fancy galleries hanging tightly packed
with many others in a poorly lit gymnasium. Doing this can solidify either solidify what
you were already thinking about that artwork, or completely upend it. 34) Sometimes, the most important person in
the room is sweaty and wearing bike shorts. I learned this when I was working at an art
gallery right out of college and made my first and very significant sale to just such an
individual. But this can apply to so many fields. Don’t judge anyone by their attire
or other outward signs. You never know who they are or what they might bring to your
life. 33) Related to this, remember that when you
are making snarky comments about the art you’re looking at, there’s a chance the artist
is in the room with you. 32) It is easy to parody contemporary art,
and that parody is often deserved. Sometimes the emperor really isn’t wearing any clothes.
But parody can also be a way of giving ourselves license to ignore what we might find challenging
or complex. So you know, laugh, but then think about it anyway. 31) Lectures and all-day symposia about art
can be deadly boring but if you sit there you will come up with good ideas. This is
how my husband discovered the idea of “third space,” used extensively in his book The
Fault in Our Stars. 30) You don’t have to like Impressionism.
You can, but you don’t have to. 29) The ancient Roman poet Horace said that
poetry should delight and instruct, or in other less pithy translation, “join the
instructive with the agreeable.” This can be extended to visual art as well. Make sure
to leave room for both when you are making art or experiencing it. 28) Disliking something is rarely forever.
I dislike Renoir right now, but that only tells me that in 20 years I’m going to encounter
a Renoir that will surprise and move me. The art may not have changed, but I will have,
and also the world around me will have, both affecting my read of it. 27) Whenever I study an artist or artwork
deeply, my appreciation for the work almost always grows. I’m a softie that way. 26) You belong in art museums and galleries.
If you are made to feel as if you don’t belong, that is because the museum isn’t
doing their job, not because you don’t belong. If you feel like you don’t belong in a fancy
commercial gallery, try not to take it personally. They are trying to sell luxury goods to .01
percenters, and that air of exclusion is something they’re trying to cultivate to make the
work seem more special. 25) People are involved with art for a variety
of reasons, some of them purely economic. The art world is not one thing; it is many
things. 24) At times, your art world might feel like
middle school. There are nice people in middle school, but the larger structures of power
and influence don’t necessarily bring out the best in them. 23) It’s okay to be earnest. Jadedness and
cynicism feel cooler, and maybe they are cool. But do you actually want to be cold to what
the world has to offer? 22) When you’re in a museum, go your own
pace. Don’t feel like you have to look at everything for an equal amount of time, and
feel free to breeze through twelve rooms to spend your entire visit in just one. 21) Images you recognize are a very powerful
pull. Part of the magic of seeing the Mona Lisa in person is that YOU KNOW IT’S THE
MONA LISA. Try looking at other artworks with that same enthusiasm, imagining them to be
of equal importance and value, even if you’ve never heard of the artist. 20) Even a simple museum label can tell you
a lot. Beyond the title and artist’s name, look at the collection number of the artwork,
which will include a year along with some other letters or numbers you can ignore. That
is the year the art was collected by the museum, which may or may not correspond to when it
was made. Think about the circumstances of that time period, and what it might mean for,
say, an artwork created by a woman artist in the 1950s, to be collected in the 2000s. 19) Take as many pictures of the art as you
want, as long as it’s allowed. It can be a great way to jog your memory and help you
look things up later. 18) Looking at art through the lens of your
camera is not the same thing as looking at art. Look at the art for longer than feels
necessary. 17) You do not have to photograph an experience
for it to have happened. If you feel strongly compelled, just channel Eugene Levy in the
otherwise terrible 2005 movie The Man: [clip: I am taking a mental picture / blink] 16) When going to see art, wear comfortable
shoes. You’ll look much worse when you’re hobbling and your feet are bleeding in more
stylish footwear. 15) Acknowledge the presence of gallery guards.
They are people. A slight nod of the head or a little smile will do, especially if you’re
the only two people in the room. Also, sometimes the guards know secrets, and will tell them
to you. 14) Don’t get mad if a guard tells you to
take a step back. It’s their job to protect the art, and you’re getting to close and
for all they know could be the one maniac who ruins an artwork for the rest of us. You
may know you’re not going to touch the art, but they don’t. 13-10) Take the free tour! Attend the performance!
Get the audio guide! Download the app! That was four. 9) Sometimes the only difference between having
a miserable art experience and an enjoyable one is a cookie and a cup of coffee. If you
find yourself hating everything you see, take a break, feed yourself, and try again. 8) For art to have a transformative impact
on our lives, it has to make a deep connection with the viewer. Some of that work is done
by the art, and some of it must be done by the viewer. Don’t forget your role. 7) This is just kind of an observation, but
people really love shiny, reflective art. Anish Kapoor’s Cloud Gate, Jeff Koons’s
sculptures, Kusama’s Infinity rooms. After all these years we’re just cave people attracted
to the bright flickering light and our reflection in a pool of water. 6) Art that you have to go out of your way
to find can be the perfect organizing principle for travel. From Nancy Holt’s Sun Tunnels
in the Utah desert, to the The National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Alabama,
to the art park Inhotim in rural Brazil, having a destination like this in mind and letting
the rest fall into place around it can lead to epic and fulfilling adventures. 5) Write in your books if you want to. If
you’ve ever been to a book-pulping factory, which I have, you’ll start to understand
them as utterly temporary items, especially in this digital age. Unless they’re from
the library, or could be valuable first editions, or you’re depending on reselling them, make
them yours, in pencil or pen or by dog-earing or whatever. 4) You often have to seek out art, or at the
very least be attentive when it’s around you. It’s not necessarily going to demand
your attention, and it doesn’t just exist in museums and galleries. Start to notice
the art on your friends’ walls, or the murals on the sides of buildings, or the artistic
choices in signage and ads and architecture. W. H. Auden said poetry is a “way of happening.”
Art is, to some extent, a way of looking. 3) Sometimes what feels like procrastination
is important thinking and processing time. But also, sometimes what feels like important
thinking and processing time is really procrastination. 2) I once had the good fortune to work with
the artist Spencer Finch when I was museum curator. He told me about this project he
did a long time ago where he closed his eyes, pressed a finger to one eyeball, and then
tried to represent what “saw” on paper. I’ve always thought of it as this one little
thing that is the most perfect evidence that there is still so much to explore and represent
as an artist. That so many people have done so much, but there is still room for more. 1) Last but not least: Don’t save your ideas.
New ones will always spring up in their place. What versions of truth have you constructed
about art? Let’s talk about them in the comments. Sound Field is a new music education show from PBS Digital Studios that explores the music theory, production, history and culture behind our favorite songs and musical styles Pop, classical, rap, jazz, electronic, folk, country and more — Sound Field covers it all. Hosted by two supremely talented musicians, Arthur “LA” Buckner and Nahre Sol, every episode is one part video essay and one part musical performance. So go subscribe to Sound Field! Link in the description below. Thanks to all of our patrons for supporting The Art Assignment, especially our grandmasters of the arts Vincent Apa, Josh Thomas, and Ernest Wolfe. [music]

71 thoughts on “My Top 40 Art Reflections

  1. Hi! Maybe you'll read this since I'm early, so I'll say it. The Art Assignment is the sole reason I started getting more interested in art. I grew up thinking I was fully an academic or close minded person. That I couldn't really comprehend art. Watching this channel has completely destroyed that assumption about myself and I find myself enjoying and making art way way more once I let go of all that bullshit. So honestly, thank you!

  2. Not gonna lie, this made me want to skip out of work today and visit a museum or two

  3. I love writing in books, dog earing, highlighting and all that stuff. Many friends act like I'm crazy for it, I'm grateful for your validation lol

    Also surprisingly good pronunciation of "Inhotim" 🙂 I have never been there (and I'm way closer than you), but it's a dream trip I hope to do sometime soon

  4. Heyyyy! i love the passion you have for art. and im thankfull for your amazing videos! they sometimes help with my art school homework

  5. I work as gallery guard and sometimes it's hard. People don't like you, because you are "watching" them. We are normal people and know lot of things about pictures and statues in gallery, so you can chat with us about it.

  6. It certainly helps to be selective. Like the Uffizi gallery which is overwhelming… I chose to walk to the Botticelli room with my head down and was spellbound, spending over two hours just betweenVenus and Spring. So worth it.♥️🌹👌🏽

  7. "You belong in museums and galleries"

    As I watch this from the museum in which I work.

  8. I really need a “because everything is contingent” t-shirt to go with my “all art was once contemporary” t-shirt please!!!!!

  9. Sarah, tomorrow I have an interview to work at a gallery. Ive always wanted to work with art. But you've really been an inspiration and someone to look up to during my journey. I can only hope to be half as insightful and encouraging when I reach the later levels in my career as you.

  10. Art to me is a way to kind of enter someone else’s mind. It’s such a beautiful way for humans to try to express themselves, sometimes when words cannot.
    Thank you Sarah, for this video 🙂 !

  11. Thank you for this video. Would you consider making one on the Light and Space movement? Turrell and Irwin are well known but I'm very curious about the other contibutors of this movement. Also, I would love to learn more about Art Residencie: what's the advantage for an institution to organise them ? Which ones are the most well known and why? I hope these questions can provide inspo for your next videos 😊

  12. – Sarah : " that feel something like the truth to me..or at truth-adjacent for now because everything is contingent "

    – John : I need to quote this

    😂😂

  13. Nr 3, in my case, usually the second…😉
    Great channel. I have always been very sceptical about certain modern art works ( you know the red canvas and such), you have made me rethink some of my opinions about them.

  14. I read this in the book called "big magic" by Elizabeth Gilbert, idea or inspiration is like a little fairy. It comes, sits on your shoulder, whispers in your ear, and gives you that wow moment. If you want you can take it. But it doesn't belong to you.

  15. Thank you for acknowledging us gallery guards. It's surprising how little credit we get for all the love and hard work we put in to keeping artwork safe and visitors welcomed and informed… so this nod is very much appreciated.

  16. this channel feels like
    – putting on warm socks straight from the dryer
    – taking the first sip of hot chocolate
    – being wrapped up in a soft blanket
    – warm hugs
    – the buzz of old lightbulbs
    – slipping my glasses & bra off after a long day
    – mint cologne, for some reason
    – sitting on the kitchen counter and listening to the rain
    -tucking your nose into your scarf on a particularly windy day

    thanks for everything, sarah

  17. I went to the National Museum of Women in the Arts last week, and I honestly think the way I viewed the art and treated my experience was impacted by the years I've spent watching the Art Assignment. Letting myself be surrounded and overwhelmed by pieces instead of just glancing and moving away when I'm uncomfortable, not putting on headphones so I could fully experience the rooms. I even checked out the library (no pun intended) and found another little exhibit there! All this to say, thank you Sarah and PBS for impacting the way I view/experience art. I really, genuinely appreciate it.

  18. I loved this so much. It's so nice to hear another person saying "You belong in a museum, and if you feel like you don't, the museum isn't doing its job." I have said that to so many friends, and they never believe me.

  19. You don't like Renoir??? Those paintings are so pretty how could you?? Maybe you'll explain some day 🙂

  20. Also, that thing about shiny things is 100% my experience as well. Whenever I've sold my art, the shiny stuff always sells best. People love that shiny. lol

  21. "You don't have to like Picasso."

    It really pleases me that you said that. Thank you so much!

  22. I really really want to work in a museum or an art gallery? Im finishing high school this year, what college degree should i pursue?

  23. I agreed with everything – except dog-earing books. Use bookmarks or sticky notes.

  24. Thank you, I love your show. I love what you bring to it and I love the content your husband creates (it was such a fun and happy discovery that two of my favourite content creators are wife and husband + that he has written Fault In Our Stars). I found Art Assignment as a recommendation from one of his videos.
    Art Assignment aligns with my personal goal of making art more accessible (encouraging both experience and expression) and I am glad that it exists.
    Thank you PBS, I will check out the new show too. It sounds intriguing, some friends here in India are toying with a similar idea.
    On a final note, in tangential response to the last point you made about ideas, I thought it might be nice to have an open source pool of ideas for anyone to use and interpret in their own way, ideally giving credit to the person who came up with the idea. What do you think?

  25. My art truth is "All art was made by someone." This seems incredibly obvious but it's something i have to remind myself of when I visit art , that it didn't just pop into existence. it took someone somewhere time to create.

  26. What do you mean by the last one, 'Don't save your ideas' ? Like don't treat them like once in a lifetime gold that will never come back, because you will always have more ideas that get better? Thanks

  27. Yes, Renior is way over-rated, especially along side his contemporaries. The faces of all his women look the same.
    Can't be a very fun job as a guard at a gallery, I know I couldn't do it. So I would say chat away.
    And yes, cookies solve most problems.

  28. I went to art school and of course learned how to critique art during that time. I used to take my non art school friends to see works of art and get really excited to share my critiques which felt so much more authoritative and informative now that I knew what I was doing. However, I realized pretty quickly that doing that saps the fun out of seeing a piece of art and really unpacking it for those who I was man-splaining to. Now, I ask my friends light questions when I am seeing works with them. "What do you think? What stands out to you? Do you like it? Why? What puts you off about it?" I also read the interaction and leave quiet space if more appropriate.

    tl;dr I stopped trying to explain art to people and saw how much more people enjoy discovering art for themselves.

  29. oh boy, the last one is a mistake I see people make all the time "I really like this idea so I'm going to save it for when I get better"

    No! It'll probably seem like a dumb idea by then! Just do it now, damnit!

  30. I haven't been to an art museum in ages but this video made me want to change that asap!

  31. This just gave me a great idea to ask a museum guard what their favorite piece in the museum is next time I'm visiting one!

  32. Saving ideas for later is only good when you can fill notepads with them faster than you can execute the work… I call it my project bank.

  33. Hang on…. so… your husband is writer? No wonder you know so much about art. Hmm… You are full of surprises.

  34. My Favorites Line that i wrote as an artist

    An Artist is someone who does things with intention.
    Who takes stands and the rethink them.
    Who constantly evolves.
    Who spurs discovers.
    Who can synthesis talents from a wide range of discipline.
    And it's not a puppet

    The more people from outside of art get involved in art, the better art gets.

    Why are you so driving to paint ?
    I guess it's a way to keep things alive.
    You knowing,
    Saving things that will eventually died.
    And if I paint it down,
    It will last forever.

    Whatever you are creating,
    No one is our there looking for you to make stuff,
    You just have to make it,
    And stand behind it,
    And show people why they are looking for it.

    I always smell good…
    Taste lot better then that…
    But I am the only one…
    So,
    Been carefully to whom I serve…

    Art can be anything the artist want it to be.

    Like this style
    fine, to make it in that style just for the sake of it style is stupid.

    Art is supposed arrival,
    Which is a kind of a return to the beginning,
    All of the same time.

    Art is a Religion,
    An Artist is who practise the religion,
    Or he himself become a Religion.

    Good travel trip should be a story, but great trip a magical trip should move your life.

    My Artowrks are Black and White, in that way I had removed one layer of reality.

    Doing art its like looking for an answers which you know you will never going out.

  35. Just because something can be done doesn't mean it should be done. I have seen a lot of great art over the years, including a lot of conceptual art. "Conceptual art" is all concept and no art.

  36. I liked # 1 . It takes me a few months to finish a painting . Sometimes I change things in them sometimes I don't . When away from the piece and I get a idea I've often panicked about forgetting it and have scrambled to write it down somewhere . I like it when I couldn't find a piece of paper forgotten it but then remembered it at my next painting session cause it shows me my inner thought was a good idea and it bubbled up . I often sketch out next paintings ideas then never done them too. I fear the thought of going back through my sketchbook to get a idea for my next piece cause I wish to move forward

  37. Just because it's abstract doesn't mean it was easy to make! So often, I hear and see abstraction being written off as somehow easier than realistic rendering, but from at least my perspective, that is simply not the case. (If you think you could do that, why didn't you?)

  38. My art truth is that I am more intrested in how a thing is made than in the thing itself. This is true both for my own art and for other peoples. Its not just concept or just craft mastery that draws me in but experimental process.

  39. Would the nice to see your thoughts about the relation between advertising and art.

  40. "Some people go to the moon. Some people paint a canvas red." means that people do stuff. There are no real criteria to make one thing more important than another except by the person doing it. They made his/her choice in life that led to that. Sure we do judge as a culture but as a personal experience, as "what I do with my life" I should be bulletproof. And again… we do judge as a culture….. we really shouldn't. Because some people go to the moon and some people paint a canvas red. It is a fact of life.

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