With the increasingly dense stacking of visual experience in contemporary culture, the question of the appropriate form of expression has never been more essential.

Is an object of contemplation best represented in real time, relying on a purely intimate primary experience for a viewer, or is the object/experience by its nature so elusive or unavailable to interested parties that it must be documented by media that can only record itits representation then, by strict definition, a secondary experience? For most viewers the difference between primary and secondary experience has become blurred as our ability to process the two has morphed into what might be termed “personal experience”, a fluid shifting of the two. Which is not to say the viewer is potentially any less discerning in their assessment of their experience but more receptive to the myriad modes of delivery that constitute visual experience.

It falls to the visualist of origin to determine the appropriate form of the intended visual experience. After all, there is no audience without an object/experience, however ephemeral, and there is no object/experience without an author, in this case the Artist. This needs to be stated since the order of this procedure is often over-looked during the evaluation of the object/experience by the audience.

Since the Artist is the point of generation for this process, an equation to describe the factors that constitute an Artist is appropriate in developing a working vocabulary for discussion. Simply stated:

Each part of the left side of the equation is described in the most general of terms in order to allow a flexible interpretation of the notion of the Artist. The reason for this breakdown is to identify those aspects of consideration, personality, and responsibility that are engaged during the production of Art.

Citizenship — 

is the subconscious as well as the deliberate participation in one’s political and aesthetic culture and begins for most of us not as a decision to participate, rather it grows as we develop. Our understanding of citizenship matures as we engage in the increasingly intricate layers of social interaction. The essential importance citizenship plays in this formula is to locate the Artist’s position relative to the social contract, where he/she stands relative to the (ir) audience. How actively this is pursued within the course of art production is relative to the concerns the Artist has regarding audience reception and its social and political implications. It reflects the concerns, issues, and responsibilities that most often occupy the Artist outside of studio production, but Citizenship also influences and informs the Artist’s choices of subject matter and methods of production. A citizen’s personal history is what shapes his or her unique relationship with the social contract.

Artistic Personality 

While style is an oversimplification of the Artistic Personality, it often serves to telegraph the Artist’s attitude regarding his or her chosen subject matter. The selection of media, genre identification and extending to the venues chosen for display all contribute to an understanding of Artistic Personality, which is, by its nature, extremely complex and can be distinctly different from that of the personality of the Citizen described above.

The element that most clearly shapes the Artistic Personality is one’s choice of Artistic Heritage.

Artistic Heritage —

Heritage, as defined by Webster’s Dictionary, is:
1.) something transmitted or acquired from a predecessor.

2.) something possessed as a result of one’s natural situation or birth.

Artistic Heritage for the Artist is a visual legacy that encompasses all of humanity’s marks & objects made for communication & contemplationa truly vast resource. I would expand this idea to include all objects, natural and manufactured and the legacies of scientific theory, philosophical agencies and law, other complimentary art forms and socio-political theory and history. The beauty of Artistic Heritage is that the Artist composes his or her own legacy.

What we make and do becomes History, according to those who follow us on the time line of calendars, and what we choose to draw upon to make and implement it is our Heritage.

Artistic Heritage is collected from all sources available to the Artist, whether inherited directly by exposure through education and in relationship to the social milieu, or discovered by chance. What is embraced or rejected from the arena (theater) of Art and Ideas constitutes a personal Artistic Heritage. This, then, becomes the source from which the Artist’s inspiration is drawn, and sets up the possibility of a correspondence with artists from the past and present.

Artistic Heritage is somewhat fluid, allowing for interests to change and focuses to shift. The pursuit of Art, its making, is a process of individuation and, as has been sagely stated, “cannot be taught but can be learned”. While the ways of Arttechniques and conceptscan be taught, Art contains an additional unquantifiable element, which can only be arrived at through a process that includes the discovery, examination, and cultivation of one’s Artistic Heritage, the specific characteristics of which, by extension, help define the Artistic Personality.


If the variables in this equation were designated as verbal tenses, the two aspects already discussed, Artistic Personality and Citizenship, have as their task the responsibility of bridging the past with the present. The past is, at its most effective, the bone of present and the muscle of the future.

Vision, however, must anticipate the future, the projected present, and an anticipated state of one’s art. Vision is the most elusive aspect of this equation, a state of intention, imagination and possibility, unencumbered by the gravity of circumstance and resistance.

Every citizen with creative impulses entertains possibilities from within this zone of pure potential; the Artist, however, invests belief in the possibility of realizing his or her specific Vision. Yet investing in belief alone is not enough to achieve the results of one’s Vision. The gravity of circumstance and the resistance of the status quo do exist, requiring the Artist to examine and weigh the possibility and potential of their Vision against history and the social milieu. Artistic Heritage is needed in this situation to shore up, provide a context, and validate the efficacy of one’s Vision.

If Vision is the fuel of the Artist, with Artistic Personality acting as the engine, which converts the fuel into action, Citizenship is then, the driver steering the Artist’s course. Proper sequence is essential for this equation to work effectively. The parenthetical separation of Artistic Personality and Vision from Citizenship provides the two Artistic variables with a direct link with one another. It ([ ]) functions as that place where Artistic Personality and Vision meet to engage in the act of artistic production.

Traditionally this place of production is the studio. The studio’s configuration and architectural features are unimportant, and in the post-studio era is often viewed as obsolete. What is important, even essential, is that a place (physically and/or conceptually), designated as a laboratory, for the production of the object/experience is available. It is here, during production, that mechanics meet mystery, resulting in the production of Art.

Once the visualist of origin, a presumptuously arcane term at best, has come to a decision regarding the subject of his or her work, whether it manifests itself as object or experience, the form it takes is the principal agent of how the work’s content is intended to be received. If the subject is, for example, based on a literary source, then clearly a series of objects produced in response to the subject has a very different intended reception than if it is produced as a series of photographs, a film, performance or interactive media or is to be experienced through a hybrid of some combination of media.

As the media available to the Artist continues to expand through increased technological availability, selection of materials and methods of delivery of the intended message become an increasingly complex series of choices. What does not change is the appropriate level of craft within the chosen media for the intended message. But what has changed is what craft means in the service of the intended message. The definition of craft as related to Art is “a skill that is attained by study, practice, or observation”1 continues to be governed by a focused commitment to understanding the behavior of material and time-based processes toward a specific desired result.

For the contemporary Artist there are a series of steps that outline the creative process and along the way develop an understanding of how the outcome embodies the Artist’s intention. (fig.1)


1. + 2.  Investigation/Experimentation-is the staging platform of the creative process. It includes but is not limited to material exploration, conceptual inquiry based on historical precedent, contemporary dialog within the field, technological advances and the social issues of the milieu.

3.  Discovery-is the result of accountable experimentation, focused research aggregated by the serendipitous conspiracy of circumstance. Here the Artist begins to understand their Artistic Personality and ambitions and the process of individuating an

Artistic Heritage. One’s Artistic Heritage forms an active dialog bridging the past with present, laying the groundwork to enter into a future poised with creative possibility.

  1. Invention–requires the development of a personal relationship to materials, genres, appropriate technology and conceptual identity in order to produce an object/experience that embodies the Artist’s intentions.

  2. Application-is the formal synthesis of the preceding components.

  3. Doubt-is an inevitable aspect of the creative process. It can either function as the stone that overturns the progress of the creative process or it can be the pumice that shapes and enhances the final outcome of the process. It is a state of reflection intended to test the efficacy of the object/experience

In best-case scenario steps 6 through – Revelation, Sublimation and Awe – conclude the process for both the Artist and Audience.

With the exception of technological innovation, which has been the prevalent characteristic of Western culture for the last two centuries and is now the definitive aspect of its global manifestation, things seldom appear to change while they continue to evolve. This may sound heretical given the apparent speed with which the stacking of visual experience and its reception occupy us, but what appears to be a seismic shift is in fact with few exceptions a slight movement of the fulcrum. And so it is with the production of Art, individually and collectively. In the end the challenge for the Artist remains unchanged- determining the appropriate form and tenor of the intended visual experience.

Dictionary.com-9. Noun.- Synonym as related to art- Skill that is attained by study, practice, or observation