As introduced in the previous POTW, writer Henry James proposed the following checklist for tackling the very personal, equivocal and essential question "Is it art?"
1. What was the artist trying to achieve?
2. Did he/she succeed?
3. Was it worth doing?
Interestingly, these questions can be applied to an individual piece of art (Is Marcel Duchamp’s 1917 photograph of a urinal turned upside down considered art?), a series (like my "Hands" project) or decades of work (such as Bansky's graffiti).
Answering the first question is tough but at least the burden falls entirely on the artist. The second question is even more challenging because now EVERYONE gets to have an opinion. Viewers may love the artist's intention but think the work is flawed for any number of perfectly valid reasons.
One noteworthy flaw is when a project doesn't actually do what it says it's going to do. Case in point, my "Mass Ave" project intends to "provide a glimpse of the endlessly interesting people and places of Mass Ave" but it doesn't do that and probably never will. For one thing, Massachusetts Avenue runs over 20 miles from south Boston to Lexington, MA and the series consists of only six images from a single one-mile stretch in Cambridge and Boston -- all shot in early 2012. That's a pretty paltry glimpse. Even worse, I now live over 100 miles from Boston so adding new images any time soon is unlikely.
So why is "Mass Ave" still on my mind? Because I really love the images; four of them have won awards; one I even sold; and because "Lonesome Notes" is one of my all-time favorites.
So I'm stuck. I really should scrap the project and move the whole kit and caboodle to my "Street" gallery but I'm not quite ready to admit defeat. What would Henry James do? ;-)