As we become a society increasingly engulfed in computer technology, there seem to be changes in the art world, specifically in regards to digitalization. Since the 1970s, art produced digitally has risen into the fine arts realm. For example, as opposed to manual photography which catches chemical changes on film, digital photography uses electronic sensors that record the desired image as electronic data. A major advantage of digital photography is the ability to manipulate the image using computer programs and software. many different effects can be utilized, increasing the tools the artist has to express their vision. Aside from digital photography, digital art contains multiple other forms, such as photopainting, digital collage, integrated digital art, virtual reality, hollogram, fractals, and more.
Should these computerized and mechanical processes be considered art? A painter must learn to control the brush with oil paint, and a digital artist must master the technology needed to produce an image. Technology is used by the artist to show emotion and intent to the viewer rahter than just date processing. It seems strange that there are debates about digital art’s validity as an art form when there are so many similarities between using a paintbrush as a tool and a computer.
Clive Bell once made a statement about what art is:
“There must be some one quality without which a work of art cannot exist; possessing which, in the least degree, no work is altogether worthless. What is this quality? What quality is shared by all objects that provoke our aesthetic emotions? Only one answer seems possible – significant form. In each, lines and colors combined in a particular way, certain forms and relations of forms, stir our aesthetic emotions.”
Going on Bell’s definition, digital art would appear to be art, as it has significant form. It is not without aesthetic emotion. Take a look at Marta Dahlig’s Umbrella Sky. A “digital painter,” Dahlig creates lush realistic portraits of women in various settings. Is there no emotion in this work? The digital effects seem to enhance the emotional pull. Do you agree? Is digitalization too much of a mechanical process? To get some insight, let’s look at another art form that was criticized when it first emerged.
Photography as an art form has long been debated. Like digital art, many thought that photography was a purely mechanical process. Along the way, photographers came together to fight for respect in the art world. In 1902 Alfred Stieglitz formed a group known as the PhotoSecession, which hosted exhibitons, created publications, and advocated for photography to be recognized as a fine art. Its magazine, Camera Works, was extremely influential in showing how photography could be used to create artworks of qaulity artistic vision.
It was not until 1910 at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo, New York that the first photography collection was put on show in a museum. Even after, photography was constantly subjected to criticism. In 1955 the MoMA displayed an important photography exhibit which allegedly proved photography as a form of fine art. The first major exhibition of photography, The Fmaily of Man exhibited over 500 photographs by 273 artists from around the world. After this exhibit, photography began to flourish in the art world. Just as photography had a difficult time as a new art form, digital art is now being challenged.
In a generation defined by new technologies, digitalization may begin to attract more and more attention. Harnessing modern technologies to achieve a higher level of visual aesthetics and emotions may be the future of art. The New Britain Museum of American Art is always looking to display the innovative and interesting work of American artists interested in new media. Within our collection we have digital works from artists such as Harriett Casdin-Silver and Kevin Brown. What do you think about digital art? Has the artist lost the connection with his or her subject? Is the artistic vision lost? Or do the new digital tools give the artist more freedom to express themself?
The NBMAA is proud to announce an upcoming exhibition of Fractal Art. This exciting blend of mathematics and aesthetics will be the first part in a new series of mini-exhibitions devoted to New Media. Have some favorite New Media artists? Let us know who you want to see!