Thursday, January 3, 2008

bad art and bad writing


Everyday I write, but I do not make art every single day. Still, I did not think of myself as a writer until the last few years. The exactitude of words can be mystifying.

Recently I was talking over the submission process in writing, specifically the jobs of editors and agents, with a friend. He said: “Well, you had the same kind of job really. You must have seen a lot of bad art.”

Weird, because I never thought of it that way. I don’t think Bad Art. I just thought not art I wanted to show, or wanted to be around. It’s so subjective. People are showing empty rooms these days. Can you call that bad art? I wouldn’t.

But my friend then said: “But there IS bad writing.” He’s right. Now why is that? Is it because words are so exact - in a way images cannot be? Or is the world of art bigger, less easily contained and reigned in? Some say art says all those things words cannot, at least for them.

When a work of art uses words, it treads heavily. The words can change it all. Something that was exploratory and definitely up to the viewer can be less so. Of course the words can make its success too. Some artworks put me off when I found I had to “read” them – literally. But sometimes the words cinched a one-two punch.

6 comments:

CresceNet said...
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yvette said...

I know what you mean about having to "read" a painting. I usually will just move on to the next piece on the wall. But you know the old adage:
"If you can't make it good, make it big. If you can't make it big, make it red. If you can't make it red, put words in it." Well maybe the last part is not really part of the quote.

Anonymous said...

Yvette, I would be curious to know where that adage comes from. I didn't realize that it was a common thing.

Mark Kostabi had that advice in his advice column on Artnet. If you want something to do well, make it big, "oil on canvas," and red. I thought this was funny and did the Red One as sort of an experiment. But sure enough, it went well and the thing sold.
E

yvette said...

I love "The Red One"!

I heard the "If you can't make it good..." saying from Bill Dunning, my first painting teacher and mentor at Central Washington University. We (my cronies and I) grew the quote to include any thing that was annoying us at any given time ("...put words in it") Usually ending with "...put big red words in it." This was in the early to mid Eighties (83 - 86-ish).

Bill was very well read and had something to say about, well, everything. So where he got it from, I don't know.

Anonymous said...

This might be a long shot, but is he the same Bill of Distill Bill, Carolyn Zick's project?
E

yvette said...

Yes, exactly! Carolyn and I were at CWU at the same time. Billy Vance Dunning was the painting department's head bullshitter - uh, I mean guru, and we all just loved him. He wrote "Advice to Young Artists in a Postmodern Era", in which much of his sage advice is recorded. I recommend it for all artists, "Young" or not.