Makomed's Weblog

What’s in a name?

Posted on: July 2, 2015

What’s in a name?.

How do you think the ability to name the wide variety of elements of traditional art media helps you access or understand the meaning of artwork?  This seems like a boring question but…traditionally, artworks made with “art materials” already signified that someone, somewhere gave art a try.  I will offer up this assertion for you to bounce off of: Understanding the elements of art/design is not necessary for the creation of art. Or is it?  As a young person I was told by a friend that One did not need to know how to draw to be an artist. At the time I thought that was foolish, but now I am not so sure…what do you think?  Do artists have to have training?  Why are some versions  of art more prominent than others?

Whether it’s canvas, oil, or a mosaic, art is “a primarily visual medium that is used to express ideas about our human experience and the world around us” (Lazarri). There are a plethora of mediums to choose from, and each type can enhance or detract from a piece. The main question here is whether or not the conscious choice of a medium justifies the purpose of a work enough that it’s considered an artistic work. A quick way to answer the question is for me to just say, “Well, anybody can make art. But not anybody can make good art.” But I think there is another philosophy behind it all.

Two of my favorite art quotes come from notable artists with large personalities: Oscar Wilde said, “It is only shallow people who do not judge by appearances.” And Andy Warhol also explained, “If you want to know all about Andy Warhol, just look at the surface: of my paintings and films and me, and there I am. There’s nothing behind it” (Berg). What I gather from these two greats is that their personality shines through from the mediums they have chosen; Wilde wrote introspective fiction, while Warhol made films and art about commercialism.

Would these two have been able to create art if they did not know how to skillfully use their medium? Yes! It only takes a modicum of knowledge to piece together a few sentences to make a paragraph (I’m doing it right now), and it only requires less than a bucketful of paint to make a replica of a Campbell’s soup can. What makes them truly exceptional, however, is the way they used their chosen medium to convey a message.

In other words, Wilde would not have been able to successfully write Dorian Gray, which, I believe, is essentially an autobiography, without knowing how to instill suspense and drama. He was able to recognize that human beings are mostly vain and it is only natural to wonder how far would someone go in length to reclaim their youth? If he had only written it as a self-introspective piece, however, it would not have had the same effect.

The same goes for Andy Warhol’s pop art. His silk screened sculptures of packaging boxes Heinz 57 Tomato Ketchup and Del Monte Freestone Peach Halves celebrate commercialism and the redundancy of mass production (Lazarri). However, he would not have been able to create a sense of irony had he merely recreated the boxes using cardboard and ink. Instead, he used wooden sculpture and silk screen printed the images and treated them like art only to re-create something that has been seen before. This was revolutionary during the 1960s Pop Art movement because up until then, many people only saw artists as creating something unique and almost divine with the amount of effort they used and the materials they acquired. Warhol developed a twist that turned the art world upside down on its head because it made people think about themselves and their environment. He wanted people to see that we are completely comfortable with everyday things. What people realized was that before there were fruit in boxes or in smoothies, and before there was bacon in plastic packages–the fruit was on trees and bacon came from a live pig. He wouldn’t have made as much of an impact had he not known about the power of choosing the right medium to convey that it was art, and not just a reproduction of a box.

And that has made all the difference.


1. Berg, Gretchen. Andy: My True Story. Los Angeles Free Press, 17 Mar. 1967, p.3.

2. Lazarri, Margaret. Exploring Art – A Global, Thematic Approach 4e. Wadsworth, Cengage Learning.


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