Finley: Fondling The Artless

Art. The unalienable. Those who suppress it are thieves. Those who make a value judgement on it are liars. To reach the pure form of art would be to interface directly with the artist’s own mind, which would be pregnant with images, not thoughts, not concepts, not words, not ideas. Images. The basis for all that we think. The ancient civilizations draw their literary roots from images, and 20th-century poets apply imagery and image-based literary techniques to their products of genius. Disappointingly, today’s art world fears to reject a creation as “not art.”

Intent plays an extreme and important role in the creation of art. Karen Finley, for example, enjoys parading her body and getting drunk and acting like a lunatic. Granted, she says she has her feminist reasons behind what she does—although her whole life stands as a hypocritical opposition to those beliefs—but she doesn’t develop what she believes in and wants to express and then finds the best medium to express that. Instead, she finds the medium she likes, and then does what she wants, and finally ascribes meaning to it.

Carl Jung’s writings claim that our dreams are based on images and archetypes and symbols. Our thoughts first begin as image. A Mexican, looking at Diego Rivera’s mural, may understand in one momentary look the history and concept of Mexico. The complex images shown in the mural are the same types of images that course rapidly through the Mexican’s mind when they see their own flag.

According to Jung, psychological art draws on the assimilated experience we have. An artist who creates at the psychological level makes art intelligible or “readable” by the general public, whether or not they are “art-minded.” The art acts as mediator between the artist and his audience. Therefore, the audience must see in physical form what is in the artist—whether as image, performance or poetry.

The second level of art is the visionary. Visionary art draws on archetypes of the “collective unconscious,” creating a deeper work. Appearing in dreams, mythology and art, images—self-originating (epiphanic), inventive, spontaneous—can be viewed as metaphors and cannot be adequately circumscribed.


Art is the epiphanic spark of thought—and moreover a culmination of past to forge present concept. But art isn’t concept. Art expresses concept. The mind is images. Art is the physical expression of those images, portraying concept—in physical image-based form—or words.

Art should never rely on its medium. It is a medium, and all should be done to express in physical terms what the subconscious and conscious want to communicate to the audience. There are other wonderful artists who use nudes as the best medium for what they do. Karen Finley finds the best meaning for her medium. So her work has great meaning, great effect, and is full of imagery and political stance, but it is not art.