Wednesday, February 28, 2007

just paint

Recently I was on a critique panel for students. My panel was all female and so were the students we dealt with. This might normally not be significant. In the case of the first student, gender played no part of the discussion. It was for the second and in fact the more the critique progressed, the more the subject of gender came down like an eventual heavy rain. And that had everything to do with medium: paint.

It is never just about how a painting looks or what it means. It’s hinged on an immense history you measure, entertain and wrestle with. It is also hinged on going forward in an almost blind leap of faith at some point – to what we want to do. And how there is almost always some (well meaning, no doubt!) fellow telling you that (at least for now) it’s not really possible. You are not ready.

It was all too familiar to when I was at the Art Students League in the 80s and Frank O’Cain is telling me: “…But… you can’t… do… that!”

I shoulda said just watch me. Nonetheless I will make no confession of regret – having stayed instead in a place my instructor felt safe in, because my drawing skills became fierce, and they are fun to have. But as to the young woman in question in 2007, the entire panel said just do it. Just p a i n t. This is not about what you can’t do. This is about what you can. Do.

1 comment:

geoff said...

Amen. I'm not going to argue that there isn't still a deplorable gender gap in the art world. The point is to not give a damn. I saw artists in school, told that they would have to paint to make a living, struggle with the male-centric history of it all and falter. Yet as soon as they were exposed to other mediums that weren't quite so heavy with white male history, they exploded and created amazing work.

I find it's hard to allow someone to flourish if you're telling them what they oughtto be doing. The trick is watch what they are doing and give them clues as to how to explore and develop it. If you're supposed to paint, it's not because someone told you to, it's because you have to.