Monday, April 25, 2005

Working inside the box

Been trying to think of something creative to do with some old Happy Meal Transformers from a few years back. Finally decided that creating custom boxes for them was the way to go. Here's a picture (click on the thumbnail for a larger view).

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Creative concepts

This has been the week of the Arts Festival at the seminary in which I work. I have some pretty close friends on the Arts Concerns Committee, and used to be the chair of the committee myself a few years ago, so I generally try make myself available to help out.

These events often give me some cause to ponder the nature of art. Not so much "what is art?" but "what is 'good' art?" Clearly, just because something is popular doesn't make it "good." On the other hand, I often find myself biting my tongue (or not) when so many artists around me seem to criticize art that happens to be popular for being "bad" or "cheesy." Often, I agree with the assessment, but other times, I wonder if the art is being criticized simply because it's popular. I don't claim to have any answers here. Besides the fact that what constitutes "good" art is subjective, I myself still struggle with this question.

For example, some of my friends would suggest that "good" art must cause the viewer to wrestle with the world in which we live. I certainly don't dispute that this is one valuable function that art fulfills, but is art that is simply nice to look at not good art simply because it does not challenge anyone's expectations, but is merely pretty?

Another question: is there a difference between being "creative" and creating "art?" I like to "create" things all the time. For example, I made this custom Transformers package recently for my brother's birthday (see picture at right). The figure inside, I hasten to add, was not created by me. Only the packaging, which I designed to look as if Hasbro (the toy company that produces the Transformers in America) had created it back when this kind of figure would have been created in 1990. Clearly, very few of the ideas here are mine. The aspect of my "creativity" was in bringing it all together in this way. Some might argue that this is the very definition of art. But is it? There's no deep meaning here. Just a gift I created for my brother with the hopes of it being a bit different and special. What if I created such a package (as I'm actually looking to do for other customs) with the intent of selling the custom on eBay (which I may or may not do)? Does that affect it's status as "art?" And if it is "art," is it "good," beyond being technically proficient?

Or, to look at the question of "good art" from a different angle, what makes certain art "cheesy?" This is an assessment I myself have made on occasion. For me, I'd probably call something "cheesy" that "takes the easy way out." That is to say, not just that it is "popular," but specifically that it caters to popular culture (or in the case of "Christian" art, the popular Christian sub-culture) in such a way as to be "safe" and "easy" and to not have any real meaning for the people who look at it. Especially in the case of "Christian" art, I see so much that Christians use to escape from the secular world. If anything, Christians more than most people need to be challenged. We need to know how to engage the secular world, rather than run from it by developing our own sub-set of "art" that allows us to avoid the aspects of the rest of the world we would just as soon not deal with. But for all of that, am I not still engaging in some form of "artistic snobbery?" Where is the line between something that is merely technically proficient and good art? Should I even make such a distinction? Or am I failing to be properly engaged in the world (artistic or otherwise) if I don't seek to make such a distinction?

And so the pondering continues....

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Another one bites the dust...

I'm a huge fan of game shows. Have been my whole life. Much to the chagrin of my father, who saw it as a waste of time, and fostering dreams of "getting something for nothing." I'm actually not entirely sure I disagree, but since the very definition of "grace" involves "getting something for nothing," I've never seen this as such a bad thing....

Anyone who's watched Jeopardy! in the past year probably knows about Ken Jennings. Ken broke virtually every record possible in his half-year-long run on Jeopardy! last year. (I've found one obscure exception.) To capitalize on Ken's popularity, the Jeopardy! producers have embarked on what they're calling "the Ultimate Tournament of Champions." This tournament is unprecedented in scale, showcasing about 150 former champions in a tournament that will run for several months. The two winners of the tournament will face off against Ken in a 3-day final round playoff, the winner of which to receive $2 million dollars. (In response to the "something for nothing" crowd, I should note that this will probably be the most minding-numbingly exhausting "nothing" these players will ever have done!)

Yesterday saw the return of my personal perennial favorite Jeopardy! player, Eric Newhouse. Eric was the Jeopardy! Teen Tournament champion in 1989 (he was 15 at the time). He since has made appearances in that year's Tournament of Champions, the 1990 Super Jeopardy! tournament, the 1998 "Teen Reunion" tournament (which he also won), and the 2002 "Million Dollar Masters" tournament (in which he won second place). This last was intended as a kind of "Ultimate" event, but the success of Ken Jennings dictated that the producers come up with something even bigger. (For that matter, "Super Jeopardy!" was supposed to be such an event, as well....) In any event, Eric has been dubbed "Powerhouse" by no less an authority than Alex Trebek himself, and being about the same age as myself, I have always looked forward to his appearances.

Sadly, yesterday was not Eric's day. He made two bold "Daily Double" bids (the latter of which would have been a "true Daily Double") and missed both, thereby decimating his score. He only managed to survive to even play the "Final Jeopardy!" round by getting the last two questions in a row correct, bringing his score out of a deficit.

Needless to say, he did not win the game. Ahh, well. I guess I can look forward to Ken Jennings' return in a couple of months....

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