Google "American Artist Appreciation Month"—it's August, by the way—and you'll find suggestions for appreciating American artists—buy their art, visit your local art museums, contribute to arts organizations, that sort of thing. But I'd rather talk about the nature of the American artist, and not just the visual variety, because just like this crazy country, we cannot be easily defined.
American art precedes the labeling of this land as "America," with petroglyphs, totems, pottery, and jewelry created by artists living in thriving cultures here. Invaders arrived—people like my ancestors who made lives alongside native dwellers (my stock is a mixed bag)—and brought along every manner of artistic expression.
A few hundred years later—American artists paint landscapes and portraits and florals and abstracts. We create jewelry and clothing and home goods. We teach and weave and throw pots and shoot pictures and design buildings, and we sculpt out of all manner of materials. We write music and poetry and literature, and we perform in films and plays and musicals.
We come in all shapes, sizes, creeds, races, and genders. We are native born, and we are immigrants, and we are refugees. We are classically trained, and we are self taught. Our work is traditional and modern and pop and kitsch.
We are not exceptional—artists thrive around the world. We simply join in natural forms of human expression, whether as professionals or hobbyists on a Sunday afternoon.
So, yes, by all means, buy art and music and books, visit your local art museums, attend a concert or a play, contribute to your favorite arts organizations, demand that art of all sorts be taught in your local schools, and create art of some kind yourself.
All of the above. And then take a moment to appreciate the undefinable nature of American art and its artists. We are a prolific bunch.
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