What is art? The dictionary defines it as “the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power.” Ah… “creative skill.” Okay.
What is creativity? That’s defined as “the use of the imagination or original ideas, especially in the production of an artistic work.” There’s that reference to “imagination” again, that ephemeral, unseen yet all-powerful prompt sending our minds flowing, inspiration flourishing, and dreams blooming. Just like beauty, art, our imaginations, and how we express our creativity is subjective. The way I consider a Pollock will be different than what it does for you, just as how we each see a Misty Copeland dance solo, hear Sinatra’s rendition of “Someone to Watch Over Me,” and view Hailee Steinfeld’s performance as Emily Dickinson. It is all art and each has its place in our heart in its own way.
That’s part of its magic and conundrum. In celebration of American Artists this month, we’re sharing some exciting creators to inspire and activate your creative juices. These are among those taking our breath away at the moment and we know you have your own favorites. We definitely want to hear about them but let us go first, shall we?
Let the show and tell begin!
Imo Nse Imeh
The delicacy with which artist and scholar of African Diaspora art Dr. Imo Nse Imeh creates his paintings highlights the depth of their messages. The Nigerian-American currently serves as Associate Professor of Art and Art History at Westfield University while exhibiting his pieces all over the world. Choosing to paint in bold colors against a white canvas, these powerful, beautiful images memorialize the struggle represented by such charged moments as Trayvon Martin’s shooting (“17 Years Boy: Images, Sounds, and Words Inspired by the Life and Death of a Young Black Boy”) and the Boko Haram kidnapping of the 276 girls in Nigeria (“Chibok Girls”). Rich with symbolism and overflowing with beauty, Imo Nse Imeh uses his canvas to remind us all what was, what is, and what can be.
Amy Lee Ketchum
Born to first-generation Chinese immigrants in the City of Angels, Amy Lee Ketchum animates life with vivid, dynamic colors, transporting you into the work, the world, the design. Currently teaching at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Amy is working on a stop-motion project using cardboard objects and always pushes the envelope with her ideas, thoughts, imagery. She pulls inspiration from her West Coast upbringing, her Asian roots, and her innate art sense to create riveting, moving emotive experiences that literally move.
Art takes much out of all of us and it was no surprise that in 2009, artist Paul Chan decided to take a hiatus from this world after he presented his living, animated “Sade for Sade’s Sake” exhibit. He followed his dream to open the publishing house, Badlands Unlimited, which went on to publish e-books, paper books, and artists editions by such artists as Etel Adnan, Cauleen Smith, Lynne Tillman, and Marcel Duchamp. Featured in galleries around the world with his startling charcoal sketches, sculptures, and interactive art installations, Paul Chan’s return to the art world in 2010 was met with much praise and deep appreciation.
Art lives forever, right? Well, in the world of tattoos, it’s a personal expression on your body until the end of your own forever. Kelly Doty creates the kind of art that goes viral in the most holistic way. Her quirky yet deeply relatable designs have a bit of dark, goth to them and they come to life in the most exceptional, personal way. They live on the skin in beautiful depth, show what that person wants you to know about them, and are created with a craftsmanship that works with skin tone, type, curves, you name it. No flat surfaces for Kelly. She goes with the flow of the body and makes all her pieces reveal what’s inside.
“Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.” — Pablo Picasso
What moves us, inspires us, motivates us in our own creativity is subjective. There is so much beauty in the world, much art to be discovered anywhere you look that it excites us to find artists expressing themselves in unique and challenging ways. America has inspired the imaginations of some exceptional people out there that are worth highlighting and celebrating at every turn. While these days, the outside world seems more engaged with our politics, those who put their hearts and souls into expressing themselves in the visual medium continue to make us all think, grow, and feel inspired to develop our own talents.
There are many more artists to discover out here. Those making new waves like Tawny Chatom, Kendall Frank, and Lulu aka TootyMcNooty, and legends like Keith Haring, Charles Schultz, and Artis Lane, make it possible to find solace, escape, and even enlightenment through the visual.
Art is all around us. All you have to do is look.