Friday, December 3, 2010

Art is Not Concrete

Last Saturday evening Kira and I decided to go for a run after I finished my Sunday shift at Twin Rocks Cafe. Sunday morning dawned cold and blustery, so as I turned the key in the restaurant door I seriously thought about canceling our outing. By early afternoon, however, the sun was brightly shining and the temperature had greatly improved. There was a slight breeze from the west, so we asked Jana to drive us to Sand Island so we could run into town with the wind at our backs.

Elsie Holiday with her Winter Butterfly Basket.

As is often the case, Kira was in a philosophical mood. Since it was Sunday, we began by talking about God and various world and local religions. By the time we arrived at the trading post we had gone through a great deal of spiritual material. As we sat on the front steps winding up our thoughts, I could feel the cold seeping into my bones from the cement porch. Thinking I was extremely clever, I pointed down and said, “Well, God is not concrete. Instead of being cold and hard like these steps, He is warm, flexible, compassionate, varied; difficult to precisely define.”

Since I know more about art than I do about God, I began to think about the statement in terms of the artistic creations we buy and sell at Twin Rocks Trading Post. It did not take long to realize that art too is not concrete. Trying to define art is a lot like trying to define love; there are simply too many permutations to actually get your arms around the concept.

Several years ago Gregory Holiday brought in a sculpture of four or five Kokopelli figures dancing across a piece of drift wood. This was before Kokopelli became well known, so the carving was extremely innovative. I remember standing behind the counter for what seemed like an interminable period of time trying to decide whether Gregory had made something extraordinary or just more firewood.

After about a half hour, Gregory became anxious and started shifting his weight from one foot to the other. Assuming he needed to use the facilities, I directed him to the back of the store. No, he assured me, he did not need the restroom, he was merely impatient for me to make a decision. One way or the other, he needed to move on.

About that time Duke walked in and said, “Hey, that’s nice. Why don’t you buy it.” Thinking he was probably right, I purchased the sculpture and put it up on a shelf in the back of the store. Less than an hour later, a customer came in, spotted the carving, raved about how beautiful and creative it was and insisted I sell it to him. “Surely,” I thought, “I have no idea what is and is not great art.”

Having spent over 20 years at the trading post, I have come to understand there are no strict definitions of art, and that art is not hard or static. Instead, the best art is fluid, simple, clean, warm, sophisticated, moving, touching, inspiring and many other things I cannot even begin to explain.

I have also realized that art is about the people who create, sell and collect it. For Barry and me, art is very personal. We feel the creators are at least as important as the creations. Much of what we do is in support of the people who live and work in the Four Corners region. Of course, we enjoy the constantly changing exhibits; each a masterpiece in his or her own right. Maybe it is the God in art or the art in God that convinces me neither is concrete or subject to strict interpretation. Both are very personal and subject to a variety of interpretations that are ever changing and infinitely beautiful.

With Warm Regards,
Steve, Barry and the Team.

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