There can be little doubt that the chaotic condition of art today has caused confusion in the minds of artists, young and old. We are all asking: By what qualities, according to present standards, can a painting be judged? Is there still a solid foundation on which to base the teaching of art? Is art deteriorating, or is it being revitalized by new concepts?
It would seem that most important problems now facing the artist are to achieve a clear personal understanding of what art is, to hew a pathway for his own creativeness, and to concentrate his efforts toward individual goals. He must realize that art can no longer be bound by theories other than individual theories; that is, it cannot be pigeon held into prescribed methods and practice. Art is having its own pains. At long last, art has flung open its doors to individual creativeness in a way it has never done before. It has become a broader means of individual expression.
If we choose to become practicing artists today, we must widen the scope of art itself to take in all forms of creative expression. Art is no longer limited to traditional forms of painting and sculpture; it must be made an integral part of life as it is lived in the present and will be in the future. Art is also architecture, ceramics, industrial design, weaving, and textiles. It is a means of expression closely related to a new way of life.
Let us at once clear our minds of the concept that art is an "ism" or a cult. Such things exist within the complete concept but are only facets of a whole movement. When we can grasp the idea that art is an integral part of mankind itself, we need only to look back to see that it has existed since the dawn of intelligence. We find it in all peoples. Art is an expression of mankind's effort to make a better world, and to bring beauty into life in one form or another. It is a creative force, and such will naturally align itself with the condition and circumstances of the world in which man finds himself at any time. The present revolution in art is a logical result of a period of general revolt against traditions of all kinds.
At the bottom of the national and political crises today is the struggle for individual liberty and freedom of expression. It is therefore no coincidence that art has moved with the times and given the artist more freedom of expression than was ever known in the history of art.
There is always the danger that freedom can be abused. In art this means that the man without knowledge or ability is granted the same freedom as the skilled technician. Freedom is based on the assumption that the individual is morally and socially responsible, and to grant it to irresponsibility is like opening the doors to everyone who ever perpetrated a crime against society. The new-found freedom in art has set the pendulum of creativity winging widely. There are painters wielding the brush who do not possess one iota of the fundamentals of art. We have "art" that would make the old masters jump back into their graves, were they to see it.
The good seems almost hopelessly mixed with the bad. Yet, in spite of all that, art is now in a healthier state than it would have been if nothing had changed. Art cannot and should not stand still. That is stagnation. There is little danger that art will perish; only form of art die. Confusion will eventually give way to order, and here and there new concepts of unquestionable value will develop. Meanwhile, instead of throwing out all the concepts and procedures of the past, let us search them for values that can be put to use today. Let us assemble a whole stock of knowledge gleaned from the past and add newer concepts, and in turn join these to the concepts that will come out of the future. Let us give art the benefit of the techniques of scientific exploration. The scientist does not throw away a theory until it has been proved false or valueless. To condemn the past because it is not part of the present would be as short-sighted as to stick only to the past for the sake of tradition.