Friday, December 14, 2007

conditions

I attended a holiday studio sale where I met an artist who does portraits, mostly self-portraits. He is also a damn good illustrator, with a style a little reminiscent of the 1930s and 40s (not a bad thing in my book). He also had some constructions around which were sources of aggravation to his teacher, he said, and were torn apart at his critiques. He stopped going in that direction.

I wonder about things like that. I wonder because there’s no guarantee about who’s “right.” His Prof said “That’s over” – that style or medium (maybe both), but is that really true? Couldn't it be more a matter of working on something until you make it your own? Why would, say, painting and drawing not be “over,” still be valid, but not assemblage?

No doubt the things screamed “Ed and Nancy” all over them, but so what? No one starts at XYZ. You start at the beginning and it looks like what came before it.

When I hear things like that, of artists abandoning entire practices based on a class, it startles me. Prejudices get projected. In my own time, I have had very confident, authoritive verdicts assailed my way, only to find out that however certain they were - they were wrong!

If a teacher is free and clear of their own issues, or can at least put them aside, great. If they are steamrolling down the luxurious highway of art making, with perceived kudos at the finish line, they should be able to afford generosity. But when they attack entire mediums and styles, it’s like withholding love. It’s easy to forget that all quality is held in conditions; nothing is without context. What else are we not seeing because it does not meet current fashion and prescribed methods?

16 comments:

man-child dude from the æther said...

The ecstasy of influence: A plagiarism by Jonathan Lethem

man-child dude from the æther said...

Most artists are brought to their vocation when their own nascent gifts are awakened by the work of a master. That is to say, most artists are converted to art by art itself. Finding one's voice isn't just an emptying and purifying oneself of the words of others but an adopting and embracing of filiations, communities, and discourses. Inspiration could be called inhaling the memory of an act never experienced. Invention, it must be humbly admitted, does not consist in creating out of void but out of chaos. Any artist knows these truths, no matter how deeply he or she submerges that knowing.

From the link provided above ...

Anonymous said...

I would agree that most of our education and ideas about art comes from art itself. I do not advocate chaos or creation stemming from complete isolation. My mom was an artist and she had a gallery - I've known no other life...

But I still think that a lot of education hurts as much as it helps. Because people tend to be a little too sure and by being so sure, they dismiss.

A friend once told me that no one would fall between the cracks anymore. We know too much, he contended, and media was all too prevailing. There would, in his mind, be no one-hundred-years-later discoveries or turnarounds, because well, we just know so much. His confidence was quite remarkable actually - he was so sure.

That was about 25 years ago and needless to say he was wrong about a few things....

I didn't agree with him. What I often see is people looking for what they already know, what they can recognize, what will assure them that they are right. After all, they've got all that education.... If they don't recognize it, they often ridicule it. Or worse.

Eva

Anonymous said...

PS... I loved that link, man-child dude from the ether. Much food for thought. Thanks. E

man-child dude from the æther said...

further meditations ...

Repurposed

The Quest

The Fling

The hotel fire

Fish or Cut Bait said...

Eva, are you saying that people should be adaptable or focused?

Should we be the river or the rock?

Fish or Cut Bait said...

mc dude from either,
Those were some fine links.
How come you don't have a blog?

Anonymous said...

Hello fish or cut bait...

In "real life," you need to be both adaptable and focused.

As a teacher, I think you need to be really aware of your prejudices. And watch certitude! Anytime someone is absolutely certain about a style or medium especially, I get suspicious.

There's got to be a way to be both. Steiglitz is still the ultimate role model. Very opinionated, no doubt but a big open mind.

When artists brought me their work at the galleries, I was always clear about it being "just my opinion." ....Recognize your own interests (someone else could call them limitations - that's OK - we all have them)... don't confuse interests and strengths with absolute verdicts. Art history has a way of showing many real smart people to be wrong.

E

man-child dude from the æther said...

Hello fish or cut bait

I'm glad you enjoyed the links. The stairway to gilligan's island is a classic piece of repurposed music. As to blogging, I've been considering it, but so far haven't taken the step. I'll give it serious consideration, though working blogging into my schedule may be a challenge; maybe posting once-a-week musings would be something I can handle. Incidentally, I've been lurking over at Fish or Cut Bait and Sustainable Art. Great stuff going on there, the paintings and meditations are fabulous, as are Eva's! Thanks for the encouragement, much appreciated...

julie said...

holy crap man-child dude from the aether!
That was a seriously good article. I ended up having to write about it on my own blog. Thanks for the link!!!

Anonymous said...

I am lucky to have you, man-child dude from the ether, as part of the conversation. Steven is right - you should have a blog! But in the meantime, please keep visiting me!

E

man child dude from the æther said...

Hey Julie,

I'm glad you enjoyed the link, and I'm going to check out your blog.

Here's a complimentary piece, from the same issue of Harper's which also raises some interesting issues:

On the Rights of Molotov Man

Best to all...

man child dude from the æther said...

Hey Eva,

I just read your post. Thank you for your kind words and generous output here on the blog and your artistry. Much appreciated. I'm enjoying my amateur status. As Hunter S. Thompson used to say, some things are best kept to an amateur status to achieve full enjoyment.

Keep the tedium to a medium, unless your medium is the tedium...

beebe said...

It seems like there are three kinds of grad school teachers...

1.) The Antipodean. Their advice usually consist of saying something like, "Okay, you've mastered [whatever medium], now try something else." If you're painting, you should make video. If you're making video, you should draw. If you're working small, you should work big. And so on. (I found the Antipodeans to be particularly obsessed with trends in the art work, oddly enough.)

2.) The Master. The advice usually consists of suggestions or exhortations to make art in a style similar to their own. Of new material, they'll say, "Yeah, that's kind of interesting but I really see you doing [my work.]"

3.) The Teacher. The rarest of breeds, they realize that you're been working most of your life to get your current language and influences in order. They take the time to ask you what your plans are, what you're trying to accomplish, etc. Then they do the best they can to encourage and help, nudge and guide, point out self-imposed prejudices and fears that are blocking you. Again, they're very rare.

I went to grad school in NYC and had some exposure to some high(er) profile working artists in my studio. I found they almost always were Antipodeans or Masters, and very rarely Teachers. That doesn't surprise me. Artists are constantly engaged in an internal conversation, introducing or discarding influences, ideas, subject matter, etc. This can be a very single-minded endeavor and I think it's very difficult to shut down that process and looking at someone's art subjectively....PARTICULARLY if it's the work of an artist/student in transition. The temptation to overlay one's own aesthetic in a situation like that is overwhelming, I think, and most instructors aren't even aware of what they're doing. Caution is needed, right? Right.

Anonymous said...

beebe, I had a Master. He said to me: "Now you're really painting!" when I painted like him.

Eva

Anonymous said...

ps....er, when I painted more in the style towards his, you might say.

(At least I have the satisfaction of having never gone over to his camp, a source of aggravation no doubt... :)

E