Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Is art dying?

Best in Show

Its no secret to anyone that art is taught completely different nowadays than in the past. What was once structured and guided by rules has completely flipped to pushing creativity in search of the "never-been-done" before. I question myself, "Is art dying?"

Maybe its just me. Maybe I don't get it as much as I think I do. I know art is conceptual and so lends itself to many different interpretations. What captures one viewer may not capture another in the least. But it is my understanding that art is emotion. What pours out of an artist onto canvas (or other support) is their emotional response to their subject. A whole range of emotions can find themselves on canvas. Sadness, anger, happiness, love... To me art happens when the artists can actually convey their emotion to the viewer.

I don't believe art is doing something no one has ever done before.

All that is to me is simply, "something that has never been done before... " If I sit my muddy cat on a clean canvas, I don't call this art. If I grind mud into my canvas and drizzle unset strawberry jello over it and wash it down with organic apple juice, I don't call this art. It may very well be things that have never been done before, but to me, that alone doesn't make it qualify as art.

Maybe its just me...

Posted is a painting that took best in show at an association-run gallery. It is Bacon. It's a print made with bargain bacon on Asian paper. The jurors said, “This very powerful print gets its strength from the color and shape of the composition. The scale of the image, the way it is presented and the placement within the frame all add to a very compelling piece. The work finds success between starkness and complexity that makes it intriguing and fun. The unconventional materials used in producing the work inform the piece with a good mix of metaphor and irony. We applaud the artist for their creativity and exploration.” — Robert Lash & Kerstin Gilg

This is a huge juried show in Maine and the gallery can get as many as 300 entries. It is perhaps the biggest fund raiser the gallery has. A few years back, a wide variety of art could be found there. In recent years, some University professors got involved and the whole flavor of the once totally embracing association changed to exhibiting mostly contemporary art. The three big winners were all created in a sepia tone. Is this the new direction of art? Did I miss the memo? Did I waste my money on my recent order of colored paint?

I didn't enter the juried show. This post is not my anger lashing out because I didn't make the cut. I'm saddened that as time goes by, the college professors are young and they too have never been taught the rules that guide us to great art. The rules that the masters of yesteryear have left behind, passed down from generation to generation. Is art dying?

"A very compelling piece," the jurors said.

To whom? Five marks in a typical counting block is anything but compelling to me.

In todays struggling art market, all too often we hear comments like, "I don't like art. I don't understand it." These are from people who rarely expose themselves to art. They must have never been moved by a piece before. Perhaps the only exposure they get are images of winning pieces posted in local newspapers. They see images like this bacon piece. They are not moved. They continue to think they don't like art. Is it a wonder? I fear a growing negative trend in future potential-art-buyer's minds.

I ask again, "Is art dying?"


  1. Are those full strips of bacon or are they cut in half?

  2. Oh, Susan, I hope not! It is a fact though that most of our universities are teaching (not teaching) the ridiculous. Thank goodness for the true artists that keep inspiring us all.

  3. Susan, Over the top and edgy art will always grab attention in this comtemporary art world we live in. That said I do applaud groundbreaking artists like Picasso, Lucien Frued etc.

    I agree that art has to emotionally move me. Please see my latest post & let me know what your think. One curator told me, "we have to compromise on so much in life, do not compromise in the art you want to create"

    Art by Karena

  4. One point of conceptual art is that ONLY the idea is important and not the emotion or the skill of the artist. Conceptual art as an art philosophy is on the way out because it lacks beauty and because aesthetics as a philosophy has changed since the 1960's when conceptual art was formally "concepted"! What is art is guided by philosophy (the question is a regular discussion point on Katherine A Cartwright's brilliant blog. New philosophies and a new generation of artists are coming to the fore. Perhaps a question to be pondered is... what will the bacon artist be doing in five years? Nobody say eggs! :)

  5. Wow Susan..this is something I have been struggling with. I entered 3 juried shows under the same juror over the last few years, one was for the BFA seniors alternative show..I never got in and wasn't surprised since it was all about installations, large works and conceptual art. Not that any theme is ever announced..only after the juror saw a theme and went with it even if the pieces weren't the best..another story..but the 2nd time was in a gallery of a friend and I entered for her not the juror..and again the worse pieces got in..so bad that my friend had to edit the show after the juror had left the gallery. The 3rd time was the recent spring salon..again same juror although with the addition of another juror ..a whole room of her choices was the most confusing mish mash of so-called cutting edge art..this was the work this juror had picked. I am convinced that if I had pinned garbage to the walls I would have won 1st place..but since I land somewhere in between conservative and conceptual I am most always rejected. This juror was made the curator for contemporary art at my alma mater's museum of art after serving as a curator for the San Francisco MOMa! Great pedigree..no sense of beauty. I am offended and confused about the statement for the bacon piece. I agree..what will the artist do in 5 years? I must say that I am also put off by the attention given to the very young artists who although talented have no real world experience and are feted as the new artists and middle age artists paint literally in a vacuum..no matter how conceptual or modern! It is as if we don't exist! The other point I want to make..sorry about the rant..is that I graduated last year from one of the few Universities that teaches foundations classes in the arts..yet I came away feeling like so much was glossed over..or marginalized. I am considering taking an atelier class that will teach me the classical ways to paint the figure when I can afford it. I know it can only help my art even if I don't paint classically. There you have my rant today! No bacon with my eggs for breakfast!

  6. Good art is still around, it is people's taste that is dying.

  7. Nothing surprises me anymore. Next years Best in Show winner will probably be someone that feeds Exlax and non toxic paint to a chicken and lays canvas all over the floor waiting for "art" to happen!

  8. Hi Susan,

    My mum is an art teacher too and she believes that art students in degree course are no longer even taught the basic skill of drawing anymore. It's not that everything "conceptual" is rubbish but as you say it must convey emotion to the viewer or at least provoke emotion in the viewer. Otherwise it remains just a meaningless concept. BTW, have you seen the little video I have at the bottom of my homepage - feel free to pinch it if you like it!

    Best wishes

  9. wow, I was just talking about this... I think that many art courses teach this new way of thinking... which is fine for self expression... but they do not focus on basic technique... What if the teaching system divided itself to one section of technique and another in expression. Maybe if beginning classic technique (drawing, color, composition, values, painting, sculpture, form...)classes were seperate from the beginning self expression classes a wonderful marraige would take place in the more advanced classes with more respect to the how and not just the why. Maybe alittle naive of me but I do see what you are saying, and agree.

  10. Susan,
    I just want to know how long that "art" took to create? If I had known that was all a juror wanted, I wouldn't spend hours choosing something to paint and hours making sure the technical aspects were right (to the best of my amateur ability) and HOURS painting it. I missed the memo too. Shame.

  11. Wow Susan, I made a post this morning regarding this issue. Shows in my area are overrun with this type of thing. I can appreciate abstract art that expresses true emotion, but I fear art is dying by the standards accepted today. Thanks for speaking out on this issue.

  12. Les conservateurs de musées mènent aussi le bal...
    Il y a tant de choses à dire à ce sujet...
    Toutefois ne troque pas ton atout créatif... reste fidèle à ta conviction de l'art... Aime généreusement ce que tu sais donner... et nous monter...

  13. This is certainly an interesting topic. I think that for whatever reason, art jurors believe that these unexpected, more controversial choices will draw more attention to the shows. But I wonder if the pieces that often win actually make it into art buyers' homes. Even if buyers don't understand all the 'bones' and technique behind a painting, a painting that exhibits good craftsmanship will appeal and speak to art patrons, and that's what people will buy - not the painting of mud thrown onto a canvas (regardless of whether it has placed first at a show or not).

  14. AMEN! I can truely understand everything you so restraintfuly said!!

    I know many that have the same reaction, including myself...I've never met more than five people that appreciate this kind of art besides those that strive to do it - never seen it sell here either. Confusing since it's nearly all that is exhibited here?!???

    I can say that sadly, I DON'T LIKE ART OR UNDERSTAND IT - AND I'M AN ARTIST!!! I have found myself cringing to tell people that when asked what I do as if I need a disclaimer and sample of my work to somehow prove that I don't spend my days planning my next big shocking piece and making it in 2 minutes

    (yes, I said it in print - sorry if you like that kind of stuff but I agree with Maria, skill should come first THEN expression, feeling, quirkiness, ect... if not, pls call it therapy)

  15. Just found your blog, and this article really caught my attention. :-)
    During one juried show that two of my soft-edged, arbitrary-color landscapes were rejected from, I attended the opening to see what was accepted. As my husband & I happened upon a framed piece of computer printer paper that had a black oval dry-brushed onto it, my husband asked "Why did that get in?" I just shrugged and said,"I've no idea, Honey."

  16. AMEN again TOO! I remember many years ago that a HUGE art show in VA awarded its grand prize to an "artist" that displayed belly button lint.
    MMMMM.....now isn't that something. P.S. Thanks for visiting my site and I love your work! J

  17. I think you hit the nail on the head.... under educated jurors.

  18. Art isn't really dying, it's just losing majority in the backwash of "artists". Compare the amount of artists or even people from now to back then. Not everyone could be an artist, it required much training and work unlike today with machines doing much of work in making art, making it much much easier. Now with tons of artists, regardless of talent, there is much more art. And most of that art still isn't that good.

    Don't worry, most of this "moving" art will most likely be forgotten by the world quickly. Everyone knows that the art people like stay around, while the others become forgotten garbage to the world.

  19. Thank you Anonymous. I like to think you're right. There are a lot of people claiming to be artists. Perhaps it's a classifying issue? Maybe there should be wanna be artists, budding artists, aspiring artists, copying artists, just wanna move paint around artists, improving skills artists, mid-career artists and masters? It might help the confusion...

  20. This is what I take from the piece. The use of bacon, a western product, on Asian paper, a continent where pork is predominantly viewed as unedible on religious grounds, is a interesting mix. Perhaps symbolising a conflict, or a merging. Perhaps a very insulting gesture on the part of the artist. The arrangement signifying 5? Babylonian script suggests 5 ages of earth before destruction, again an image of conflict. Im a 20 year old English student, I may be being pretentious or I may just be engaging my brain. Understanding im not seeing a Bernini, Rodin or Picasso. Think, you may enjoy it


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