We all love sunsets

How we consider a sun setting in the evening sky to be beautiful, to prompt a running-to-get-our-camera moment relies upon history and context and acculturation alongside our own neurological pathway-building influence of what we think of as beautiful “automatically” – how we have become seemingly auto-responsive to, and, yet, at the same time, have learned through our cumulative viewing experiences to love symmetry, contrasting colors, movement in space, Pythagoras’s triangles, harmonic structures and post and lintel construction.  It is both ingrained and learned. 

We all love sunsets for their colors, their striking visual display regardless of ever having been taught about color or striking visual displays.  But we also love sunsets because we have seen so many sunsets taken out of the flow of the everyday and ordinary to become something stand-alone beautiful, something shown to us over and over as an example of something beautiful to look at, to take in, to mystically observe and urge us to consider this one section of the whole sky at this particular time of the day.  Cameras are summoned to record these visual displays as our culturally-formed reflexes are reinforced. Is it merely the sharp color contrasts that move us, their fleeting duration, or is there something more meaningful in connecting the setting of the sun with the ending of a day which exists no longer, just as the colors diminish before us? Is this the connection we are making (one of the symbolic rather than the mere signifying?) with the sky’s colors and our own lives diminished by one more day?

We have learned to frame things in our minds, adjust our inner palettes to appreciate the sliver from the vastness, for the whole is far too great; the required rules of symmetry and soothing color shifts all help in the creation of the beautiful.  A harsh light stressing our retinal retention capacity is not seen as beautiful; but place the very same light in the sky at a distance, give it some capacity for dispersing itself gently and we somehow find in it, beauty. 

Perspective shifts of common elements aim for the beautiful; the context then, serving to administer the qualities needed to experience it.  One single flower growing out of a cement block in an otherwise gray drab slab of concrete appears to us beautiful despite its contextual reality – its place out-of-place, its natural reality far more harsh and unforgiving (does it live as if well-tethered in rich soil and ample water?) than if set within a field of anonymity and likeness and same.  Is it the contrast, then, the context of this which determines the experiencing of the beautiful?  Is it the “framing of” that again is required for us to even notice?

This all leads to the artist and the art created for us to look at.  The response to something visually beautiful is simply our natural inclination mixed with a continued repetition of having noted such things over and over in order for them to impress upon us some sort of ingrained survival mode which, if beneficial to us, if strong enough to last, will have proven itself valid and necessary simply by the virtue of its lasting; its capitulation due to such repetition —– like the worn-out comfort of an armchair after decades of daily use.  The artist need not be mired in the questioning of what is beautiful, for by the very virtue of the artist’s “framing of” – selecting and setting apart for us to look at – this should all be resolved for the artist in the end — if the art is working. 

Ctrl Alt Del


It is of no coincidence that part of our computer language has in it a control key (CTRL) – and upon using this key in combination with Alternative (Alt) and Delete (Del) we get change.  Use this 3-key combination to change the screen before us, the screen we are stuck on, and refresh ourselves with either a complete shutdown of the current screen or simply return to it with a refreshed state of mind.  Control = (one’s progress) by Alter[ing] the present status quo by Delete[ing] for a moment to create a fresh look at where we were or, move away from completely. The options are there for us to take. We must put CTRL though, as instigator, precipitator, initiator as our command.

I know I have been considering for my own work, the teaching of art in today’s art schools and its necessary adopting of the computer as a means of creating not only relevant work, (commenting upon this technology and its impact on social change) but work which simultaneously commands a virtually green existence.

Also, at its heart, is the issue of relevance. I would like to think that the barriers between the real world out there and the artist’s “secret-language” studio have lessened, become weakened by computer technology and the artist’s very own participation in it, and that art instruction at higher levels of academic learning are addressing this.

The common viewpoint held that one area in an artist’s life which can be completely controlled is that of his own art-making becomes a double-edged sword. Graphic Designers play within an existing field of competition and established rules to have their designs met with an applauding corporate purchase. You must know what sells, and what it will sell with. The studio artist however, has this hermetic existence in a private studio acting as both luxury and identity. The more eccentric (out of touch with the real world) the artist, the greater the [eventually] recognized value of output.

Does the artist working quietly in one’s studio overwhelm the designer who must exist within convention and forgo that sanctioned state of true freedom, complete control? If so, what is the result of this arrangement? How effective is the designer’s art in constituting societal influence and change as opposed to the studio artist?

It is here, ironically, in the design world (and, not in the artist’s studio) where one needs to be “in control”. The design world is where the cultural images [we] create effect how our society operates. Advertising imagery gives us our template of cultural prescription. The images created for mass media advertising are those which have brought us to the level we are currently at; embracing corporate enterprise, making conspicuous consumption a virtue, and promoting status as staple to our spiritual-societal needs.

We artists, those in our studios closed out and “in complete control of things” end up maybe commenting upon this in our art. We make these tangible works of art to show the very same society how out-of-control it truly is. But to what effect?

To really produce change, comment upon society, make art matter, one must seemingly have to work from within. Break the paradigm. Move the clock to present and consider where the past decades have left us.

This is the one role we artists should assume, and that is in the attempting to work from within.  And, the only way to do this with any success is to have the artist, [the thinker, the seer, the one who does not play by the rules of conformity and corporate sell ] apply them to the teaching of Design. [We] should be the ones teaching Graphic Design, sacrificing our freedom (in the quiet calm of our studios) for the chance to upend the entire structure, and, in effect, make real change where we need it.