“Arth”

Definition:

(noun) a piece of really, really bad art. 

Etymology:

Early 21st century, a Kerrytown porch filled with exhausted artists who missed liking their art form.

You are an artist. You are tired, and that cold you’ve had for about two months is still nestled in your nose and throat. 

It is December, and there are four collaborations due, two final performances, a surplus of overly-personal journals to write and turn in — and it all has to be done in three days. 

Every artist I have encountered in the past week has been utterly exhausted, creatively bankrupt and nervous. The pressure is on to show what they’ve learned in neat, shiny presentations. 

When looking at art, my mind generally breaks whatever I’m consuming into two evaluative categories: Technicality and heart. Technicalities are whatever can be taught, like if a charcoal drawing of an apple actually looks like an apple. Heart is whether or not it looks like the artist particularly cared. Or is “heart” too tacky? It’s that indescribable sense of enjoyment that you get from seeing something honest, if that’s not too overused as an art-related buzzword.

It’s the same honesty you get when seeing a cartoon version of someone as opposed to an oil portrait of them. When actors improvise on stage before sinking into character. When musicians throw together a slap-dash cover of a country song in the 10 minute break in orchestra. 

This element of honesty is driven by recognizing the people creating the art as people rather than “artists.” When this element is present, we do not see art as removed and polished, but as something a person made. There is an element of beauty and aesthetic spectacle in high budget ballets or a 100 piece orchestra; that is a fact. 

But my favorite pieces of art have always been those where you can see the seams, where the process is not only evident in the final product, but a part of it. It’s like speaking with an incredibly confident and self-aware person. You like them because they know who they are and they are comfortable with it. 

Often, this is the art that is the artist’s favorite to make. Particularly when you’re an art student, it’s easy to become overwhelmed by the pressure to commodify your art, to always be thinking about how to market yourself and how to make your work clean and palatable. These are useful skills, but they can suffocate unadulterated and experimental creativity and, in turn, an artist’s love for their art. 

You are an artist. You should make arth. 

Bastardize your own art form. Boldly leap into one in which you have zero skill or proficiency. Host a reading specifically for bad iPhone Notes poetry, fingerpaint with your friends or write a song about the neighborhood cat’s secret life. 

Arth is bad. Arth is not polished. It is experience based, personal, creative throw-up.

It is compost: It is the eggshells from your goat cheese omelette, the banana peels from those pristine pancakes you made last Sunday and the orange rind from your citrus scone endeavor. It is leftovers and garbage, yes, but it is also what helps your garden grow and stay healthy.

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