Nine Principles for Making a Contemporary Piece of Art

  1. Accept the idea that goals and ideals are truly unimportant. We can all make “art” objects—feelings and instinct are everything. Perception, reasoning, and logic mean nothing.
  2. Lacking conscious intention, you are freed to express the inner you. Thousands of years of design, color, and aesthetic standards  may be blithely tossed out the window as you contemplate your own navel.
  3. Stay committed to the momentary.  The shelf life of most of what you see in galleries today lasts about five minutes. Don’t fondly imagine that you can lengthen that.
  4. The image you create is irrelevant. The viewer provides both content and cash.
  5. Keep any idea that sneaks in simple and unchallenging. This will make it easier for the viewer to think he is looking at art, when in fact he is looking at mindless pap.
  6. Don’t develop any strong stylistic opinions. Individualism is on its last legs, and who are you, anyway, to go off on your own?  It’s far better to follow someone else’s views, creating a “light” version of an already established idea. Less is more, you know; especially in a politicized and over-regulated context of curating and collecting.
  7. Don’t go against the grain. That way, everyone wins, especially the self-proclaimed art “authorities” who are then relieved of the responsibility to think. The rest of us get to go home dull but happy, and with the self-satisfied assumption that we are in the know.
  8. Never stop telling yourself and your audience that your mistakes are only choices you didn’t know you made. It’s easy to switch sides after the fact and say that you really meant to do the opposite. In a world where criteria are non-existent, who’s to know?
  9. Assume your viewers (if you have any) will have been educated to believe they must supply the meaning of your work in lieu of content. Your piece can just lie flaccidly there, absorbing good feelings. And there’s always the chance some clueless would-be aesthete will buy it.                                                                                                                                                       

Sally Cook is both painter and poet. Whether writ­ing or paint­ing, she keeps a sharp eye out for the psy­cho­log­i­cal por­trait. Her essays and poetry have been pub­lished in jour­nals such as The Chimera, Chron­i­cles, Con­tem­po­rary Son­net, Iambs & Trochees, Pivot, and The For­mal­ist Por­tal. Look for her in the next issue of Light Quar­terly. Cook’s review “Rhyming The Right”, of William Baer’s anthol­ogy “The Con­ser­v­a­tive Poets”, may be seen both in the cur­rent issue of The Uni­ver­sity Book­man and on its website.