I hate categories, but I crave them, too. "What kind of art do you do?", stumps me every time because the kind of art I do depends on the year and what I'm thinking about. The question that I could really seize on is, "What sort of themes are you working with?" However, categories--not explorations of themes--make things easier for people to digest, at least on the surface. We think that if we have a category for something, we can understand it, but when we rely so much on branding and simple categories we do ourselves a big disservice.

Image taken from Wikimedia Commons.

Being able to fly over complexities, nuance, and context fits in well with the way that our news, social media, and commercial goods come to us. Quick images, sound bites, and the way we shop allows us to curate what we consume in order to bolster our worldview, which is extra bad for art. When you think about great masterworks, you think about intangible ideals and feelings--not how well Michelangelo branded himself or how Goya got paid for his portraits. The need to categorize art flips what it's traditionally been on its head and turns us into dumber artists and distracted patrons.

From my comic, Brushwork. Buy it here!

A major function of art is to envelope us as viewers into a piece's own world and context. The art itself informs our senses and causes us to pause and to take in something differently than we do anything else in life. Don't get me wrong--art work is a hustle, no matter what the century (artists have always had to work hard and get paid to continue to do what they do), but our over-simplified categories and the push to brand ourselves cheapens the art we make and the art we consume. Whether you're the viewer or the artist, you deserve better; let go of putting people and work into either/or categories and give yourself more space to understand something new.

A beautiful segment from Kurosawa's Dreams.


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