by Alex Polier
While artists go to great pains to express themselves through paint, clay, light and sound, many often forget the power of the written word. In the endless to search to answer the question, "What is art?" artist Susan Jennings taps fellow creators with her book, "This is Art," to find out what's on the minds of todayâs artists, giving them free reign to write and sparking an original work of art in the process.
The project sprang from a 2002 speech at Cooper Union by painter Merlin James denouncing art that combines such modern methods as video installations with fluorescent lighting. While New Yorkâs art scene responded with outrage, Jennings reveled in the effectiveness of the controversy in doing what art sometimes fails to do: get the masses talking.
Rather than denounce James' purist ethics, the Brooklyn-based artist, an Elizabeth Foundation for the Art Fellow, who's shown across Europe and the U.S., sent out a generic call for submissions. She received 45 heartfelt responses from some of today's most intriguing artists, the very artists he protested.
The result compiles the musings into a 149-page book of puzzles, short stories, word games and essays that act as a portal into the minds of some of todayâs most compelling artists. Whether a remembered dinner conversation or a love poem to one's self or a diatribe on the state of the Iraq war, each entry acts a self-portrait, reflecting individual styles and passions.
â'This' is a unique glimpse into the words, thoughts and experiences of some of the creative minds of our time. 'This' is the story behind and around the images these artists make,â said Jennings. â'This' is a book I wanted to read.â