Rebecca WheelerTrying to categorize my column, the only word that came to mind was “artsy.”I hate the word artsy.What the hell does it even mean?
e.g: “Why are that dudes spacers the size of mini-CDs? He doesn’t seem comfortable,” “He’s just being artsy”
First of all, urbandictionary, since when are “indie” and “classy” interchangeable? But that’s another beast, entirely.
A tacky explosion of art diarrhea and pretension is definitely not what I had in mind for the column. Why, then, was I tempted to apply a clichéd adjective, as positive as my college outlook, to something with my name on it?
Because for a second, just an eensy teensy moment, I forgot that there’s no such thing as art anymore. Don’t you know?—art and cutesy had a love child and, to quote my favorite columnist, he’s an “ugly little bastard.” Must’ve been rape.
Everything is “artsy.”
Well not anymore, not in my column—let’s just call it “the word” from now on (not to be confused with The Word).
Somewhere along the line, people began confusing trendiness with aesthetic appreciation, posers with style. Now even for a music, fashion, poetry, theater, photography and food enthusiast like myself, it feels plain wrong to ever have associated with such a word-turned-phrase-turned-hipster phenomenon.
Just another thing my generation’s shat on.
Who let this cultural blip occur? When and why did it happen? And most baffling (and disturbing) of all, how did it become so contagious? The word’s sphere of influence is rampant, even infecting its most vehement opponents (me, stupid).
I was curious to see if the rest of the art-loving world had similar opinions on the matter, or if I was just an insecure snob on a quest to be different. I found my answer at the annual Old Town Alexandria Art Festival—a sprawling bazarre of artists of all varieties, mostly out-of-staters, that fill King Street with garden sculptures, mixed media, and scrap metal animals.
A middle-aged Floridian large-scale painter seemed just the person to ask. Her showing tent housed a collection of brightly colored semi-abstract canvases, depicting bleeding hearts and patchwork patterns.
“Artsy? You mean, like arty?”
A woman after my own heart.
“Arty, I’d say, is anything out of the ordinary—anything strangely beautiful or inspiring.”
Her work was definitely arty. Not to be confused with “the word.”
A sigh of relief—the painter found the adjective I’d been searching for all along, with no negative connotation strings attached. Its pure and simple definition validated that neither I, nor my column fell under the categories of “trendy,” conforming by “not conforming,” or “art-corrupting.”
Not on purpose, anyway.
I spent the rest of the afternoon stall-hopping amongst curious Alexandria inhabitants, dedicated connoisseurs, the artists and their creations. There was a collage artist who found her passion in literature-based pieces after years of science and technology school and a middle aged mother who makes and sells handcrafted Murano glass jewelry because her husband bought her classes one year for Christmas, but as I suspected, there were no trendy wannabes in sight—no urban outfitters clad hipsters, neither “classy” nor “indie” (and certainly not both!)
There were only dedicated individuals of all shapes and sizes, who came tens, hundreds, and thousands of miles just to pitch a tent at five in the morning and assemble their goods. They had only one thing in common (and it wasn’t their beaded moccasins): a love for their craft.
My final conclusion was this: there is no such thing as “artsy” to those who truly value art or the qualities of aesthetics and creation.
Also, do not attend an art festival with less than $1000 on hand if you plan on making a purchase.
That is all.