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ROBERTA CARASSO


Photo: Renee Levine

Art writing for me is like music and dancing for others. No matter what type and quality of art I review, it is always challenging and invigorating. Good art brings out the best in writing and requires more excavation of art history from many ages, cultures, and genres, or research into new information. Fantastic work juices me up, generating a rush of ideas. Words and phrases flow freely about what the artist reveals, the inventiveness of the artistic elements, techniques, and originality. Of course, with good art, there is never enough space in a publication to transform the visual into the literary.

Pedantic art, art overly focused on making points, has its value too. Although it is never as thrilling, it keeps one on track, and helps me rethink the premises of art, and what I'm trying to convey. Once again, commonplace art reconfirms that painting a picture, creating a collage, knowing the right moves and techniques, does not make a good work of art. Here is where the intrigue comes in; uninspiring art always makes me ponder how and where the artist missed the mark, and I recreate artistic possibilities in my head. This process is essential to accurately describing the work.

Musicians, dancers, and actors are constantly being judged. Their audition is comparable to the artist's review. Most of the time, those in theater do not succeed, but they persist because a good actor learns from each experience and is better for it. In the end, the artist--musician, dancer, actor, or visual artist---makes art for him or herself. If others like it, all well and good, but one cannot assume, that if a person chooses to make art, others will choose to like or buy it. Art is an individual statement and a personal matter.

The major dilemma in reviewing a work is separating the art from the artist. At times, I have reviewed competently executed art that reveals only a modicum of originality; but when I speak to the artist, I become aware of how much time and effort the artist has devoted to the work. Their entire life is geared towards art. It pulls on my heart strings and I realize I must be stronger to be objective in reviewing their art. What would I do? With years of experience as a working artist, art teacher, and art writer, I know I have sufficient knowledge to write about many forms of art. Yet, I am not omnipotent. Knowing that only in a perfect world there is only terrific art, my solution is to avoid publicly addressing art that is not stimulating. But when there is no choice, I describe the work honestly, and objectively, and weave into the description suggestions that would be useful, but not offensive.

On the flipside, the artist reading the review needs to have an open heart and mind. Once this is clear, then both the artist and the reviewer have fulfilled their roles--the artist to create and the reviewer to elucidate, which is, for me, my work of art.