Category: In the Round

By making his reflexive bodily movements the sole source as well as the transcriber of his ideas, Anastasi mobilized the concept of know-how, or techne. . . . His drawing practice helped him reconcile two emerging identities: one as a dedicated, ambitious artist and the other as an untrained amateur Conceptualist.

During the 1910s, amateur art was inflected with aesthetic and political radicalism and yet was also deeply American; at the same time, it challenged the genteel tradition of the nineteenth century and redefined a national spirit in the arts while remaining on the cutting edge of modern philosophy and an international avant-garde.

By recovering the motivation of love that set aloft the freedom in Morgan to determine her artistic path—that which she voiced in terms of the pleasures of intimacy with God—we witness how amateurism operates as a critical position committed to other allegiances and defined by other competencies, even as it interacts and interweaves with the formal codes, networks, and sociocultural norms of professionalism.

Artists employ amateurism, both overtly and obliquely, for a number of reasons—to find relief from the burdens of expertise, to heighten the authenticity of their work, or to casually incorporate a new craft or technology into their fine art. But again and again, the amateur attitude works to dissipate the aura of authority that hangs around learned and professional practices.

Thomas Cole’s Journey: Atlantic Crossings marks a turning point for early American art in the popular consciousness, both at home and abroad, by challenging the nativism and conservatism that surrounds narratives of that most marketable and yet most fraught of Americanist brand names: “Hudson River School.”