By Sherri Brueggemann
|At left: collector Chris Burmeister and curator/moderator Nancy Zastudil|
The October 3rd panel discussion at 516 ARTS on the Economics of Environmental Art was a brief but enriching conversation about that dilemma. With two artists, a curator, collector and gallerist on the panel, and a room full of the same as audience participants, the conversation provided insights into the nuanced values of art created about, and inspired by, our environment.
In David Throsby’s 2001 treatise on Economics and Culture (2001 Cambridge University Press), six distinct values of art contribute to its cultural value: aesthetic, spiritual, social, historical, symbolic and finally, its authenticity. Once a cultural value is established, the economic value is determined by either its private ownership value or its public good value. Environmental and ecological artists – or artists who are working within those subject areas as well as other political subjects – create art that can have both a private commodity value and public good value. According to the panelists, varying contributing factors affect both of these cultural and economic values and how environmental art is funded.
In describing a specific European artist who “sells” private conversations between himself and his patrons, panelist Chris Burmeister contributed the perfect metaphor for what I see most environmental art is at its core —a special conversation with an artist about the land, water, sky or nature on this planet, the third one from the Sun. First we must value the conversation with the artist before we can value the objectification or documentation about that conversation. As the collector on the panel, Burmeister summed it up well when he said, “…what provokes sells.” Environmental artists provoke, but how do they sell?
|From left: Artists Ryan Henel, Jami Porter Lara and curator Patricia Watts|
Some of the best questions left on the group table, unanswered, include: How does an artist not become a “brand” that can eventually be at risk of going out of style and discarded while pursuing multiple scale objects that can be purchased by a variety of supporters? Is the subject of one’s art the “type” of artist they are (read, “label”), or is it how you work as an artist that defines what “type” of artist one is? Is making an object about the environment just illustrating the (environmental) problem? How is that different than reading about it in the news? And finally, how can an artistic experience be conveyed in ways other than the object that can still yield revenue?
Panel moderator and exhibition curator, Nancy Zastudil’s passion for answers to these questions clearly stems from her unending passion and desire to support artists. I share her sentiments and through these conversations maybe we’ll all find our most creative outlets to support artists, support art enthusiasts and support the growing need for all to live a creative and art filled life. Special thanks to 516 ARTS for hosting the panel and audience discussion amidst the incredibly inspirational exhibit, Knew Normal, up now through the end of October – go see this amazing art!