The concept of taste brings together style and value in an expression of the self. When we assess the value of an object, we are usually guided by the attributes we find most valuable and the standard of acceptance that makes these attributes positive or negative. In any sort of creative expression, from painting to picking an outfit, we employ those values to style a product that communicates our individual taste. In other words, taste can be seen as the evaluation and manifestation of our own system of aesthetics.
It might be easy to see how we employ our own taste through the consumption of goods and objects. Within a capitalist system, the open market is regulated, in part, by our demands of taste. We make purchases that meet our style preferences or expectations (which at times can be collective), and designers will often track these preferences when introducing new products. Our position as consumers then holds as much authority in the formal properties of any designed object as does the style and taste of the maker. In any exchange of goods, the aesthetic preferences of both creator and user affect the way the object will look, feel, and be used.
This exchange between producer and consumer is not only a collaboration within the open market, but it also can be seen quite directly in commissions and patronage. Most of the royal arts in Africa were produced by reputable craftsmen who were favored by a king or other dignitary. While the expertise of these craftsmen was usually highly valued by the royal court, there were still times when the royal patron would have some say in the outcome of the product.
In her fascinating art installation featured in Talent Within, artist and NCMA staffer Julia Caston explores the connection between mental health challenges and community.
NCMA collections photographer Chris Ciccone discusses the portrait he has featured in the staff-artist exhibition on view through February 2022.