A Visit to LACMA

A Friendly Reminder to My Future Self

Story and photos by Lorraine Bautista, Contributor

I spent a quiet Tuesday at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art the other day and as I walked around the museum I found myself in deep thought. Though the art pieces were definitely a muse to indulge in, I think what captured my attention the most was the idea of art and what it means to call ourselves an artist— for lack of a better term, a close examination of the idea between the art and the artist.

Tony Smith, "Smoke" at the LACMA. The piece is a very large, dark, geometric structure. Two people walk up the stairs in front of it.
Tony Smith, "Smoke"

Bare with me, my intentions are not to sound trite or pretentious, but I guess an attempt to ease the inner struggle I have with defining what art is in comparison to society's definition of art. I think the simple answer is to say there is no answer, that art is simply art, it just is. However, a part of me is not pleased with that answer only because art has to be more complicated than that. Art, to me, is a struggle in which the complex is synthesized in its most simplest form, while maintaining its value — or at least not diminishing its value in any other way. This is when I find art to be the most intriguing. But of course, art is subjective.

How do we know when art is good, great, phenomenal? All this thinking led to me to ponder why people attend art museums, especially popular museums such as LACMA, much similar to how people tend to prefer the same brand over the other, and I can't help but think it is simply due to human's natural inclination to satisfy the status quo, rather than for the simple practice of appreciating the artists’ works. I can not say that I myself am not tempted by the hype, because there are times that I am. However, when I catch myself, I remind myself that the status quo distracts us from our ability to find value in such works since we tend to view them through the lens of others; and I think this takes away from the authenticity of our own artistry. Following the status quo is disempowering, and I think that this is truly a tragic fate for the artist.

A portion of Robert Irwin, "Miracle Mile" at the LACMA. The piece is comprised of fluorescent tubes in varying colors and brightnesses.
Robert Irwin, "Miracle Mile"

Though I can not necessarily define what good art is, all I know is that I know good art when I feel something in its’ presence, when it moves in a way that evades me and I cannot really describe. Art obviously has a different effect for everybody, but I think the beauty of art lies in how it either changes, reinforces, or challenges a person’s perspective. And this act in and of itself is a beautiful form of rebellion that I have come to appreciate.

Though I have seen beauty in a handful of pieces displayed at the museum, I think the purpose of any museum is not only to revel in the art, but to draw inspiration from the works of others. To observe patterns, shapes, colors, textures, and decode messages, identify the different interpretations, destruct them, and then come to one's own understanding of how art is supposed to be. To essentially create a piece that speaks to one's own unique story. In another sense, art lies in the power of one’s creative expression.

Art is not an act of thinking, but an act of feeling. It's not the geotag on Instagram, or the location we post on Facebook, because all of that seems superficial to me. But rather a way making sense of the world through the guidance of those before us, and to find a piece of ourselves through the creations of others. If this is not art, then I don’t know what art is. I think what I am trying to say, in essence, is art allows us to keep our own personal legacies alive — and this is a gift that I know I take for granted sometimes.

Chris Burden, "Urban Light" at the LACMA. The outdoor piece is made up of rows of restored street lamps. Two people stand in front of it, looking down at their things.
Chris Burden, "Urban Light"

Though posting this article on social media may seem like a contradiction, I hope you can see the real reason behind me doing this. It’s not for the glory of writing a profound piece, since it is not that. I don't know the exact point of this piece really, but all I could say is this. I guess this article is a reminder to my future self, so that I only continue pursuing my art for the right reasons — and that is, so I continue to appreciate the person I am and not become someone that I know I am not.