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Lesson Plans

Re: Art & Deadlines

[ Thread ][ Subject ][ Author ][ Date ]
henry (taylorh)
Thu, 24 Apr 1997 20:53:50 -0700 (MST)

OK, this is a long one and kinda weak I think, into the bargain. (It's
probably best to delete it unread ;) Still it's an issue that I feel the
need to take on. Apologies ahead of time to you who toil to read this. I
ramble a bit... well more than a bit. but for what ever its worth, I gave
it a shot... -hgt

> mw foley wrote:
> >
> > The use of the word "Artist" is what is confusing...

How true! Some people seem to reverently reserve it for a small set of
recognized and talented individuals; most of whom remain unknown to maybe
90% of the people on the planet. Other folk lavish it on just about any
being who could be said to have and aesthetic thought or to combine
elements in a creative way. (I remain partial to the Bowerbird)

No matter which definition one favors, many artists have been shills, some
to the world of labor and commerce others to the gilded halls of
aristocracy and academe.

As a result, many lived lives of relative (if undependable) luxury.

Where did their credibility come from? Partisans for the most part. As
decades and centuries pass however crediblity is, perforce, relenquished.
This generations darlings are, for the most part, forgotten. Few achieve
more than footnote status and how many never achieve even that in the
historic scheme of things.

A few thousand years down the road, what do we find preserved and treated
with reverence? Fine art and commercial art alike; folk and popular art
as well. These objects come down to us evenly through both respectful
preservation and random luck or chance. The status and credibility they
once held are, in almost all cases, lost to us.

It is always possible to refine taste to unimaginable extremes. Such are
the possibilities inherent to the human sensory system. Few people bother
with such attainments. It's a nice party trick to know which side of the
hill and on which estate the grape which became the wine came from or to
distinguish a coal tar pigment. Professionally, however, it can be an
important skill. As most people are not that deeply involved in the
profession such skills may not be too important. That we should remember I
think. Then too the art of aesthetic perception is a distinct art from
that art which is perceived and appreciated by such a professional.
Appreciation and creation make different requirements of their artisans.

Where did these notions of the nobility and rightness of suffering come
from? Romanticism? Puritanism? How does it come to be that suffering
is pointed to when ever possible in the lives of famous artists but so
many other suffering artists recieved no similar recognition? I suggest
that suffering was never the issue. Is it fair to accept acclaim and rise
above suffering when so many of an artists borthers remain eviley oppressed?
OK, I hyperbolize...

In any case continue to have I doubts that suffering was the primary
element which allowed some artists to be "able to examine and criticise
our visual world"

It's a Romantic fantasy that commercial artists "only need to deal with
deadlines". Just plain silly if you ask me. Many younger artists "suffer"
as commercial artists or designers until recognized by the cliques. Andy
Warhol was only a Shill until he became famous enough not to require a
"day job". And Warhol is only the easiest to point to. We might also mention
Magritte as another shill with a bit in his mouth.

Personally, having earned a bachelors in interior design myself, as well
as having once been a decently paid graphic designer, I'd have to say that I
got a broader education in the arts than in any fine art school or
college I've attended. I got a lot of art history. I was given an
excellent foundation in the principles of design that apply to all visual
arts (and many non-visual ones as well) and I didn't have to deal with
professors who confused their personal ideology for education. Criticisms
were to the point and dealt more with art than ideology or the latest
fashionable theory.

Working in the field, I faced nothing that any acclaimed artist of the
Italian renaissance did not also have to contend with. Commercial
budgetary requirements and a business world. Most of those old masters ran
a tight shop and practiced in the commercial design world as much or
sometimes more than in the world of the paintings, sculptures and frescos
we recall them for today. Aileen makes a good point, and DaVinci,
Bonuartti, et al. were not the only one designing machines, buildings, and
prettys. The business world hasn't changed much, but the art world has.

Oppression is a political buzzword and a memetic hook. Glib slogans
continue to oppress long after their authors are dust.

Say good ol' noble artists lined up all the shill designers against the
wall. What would the world be like? Look around the room you are in.
There is probably not a thing that has not passed, several times, through
the hands of commercial artists. Scientists and engineers are sober
practical and efficient people. Without artists this computer your sitting
at would be a real mess of stuck on components. If you want to see a world
without commercial artists everywhere visit East Germany a few years back.
It may be that there's a lot lacking in your current environment, but it
could be a whole lot worse. Without the disciplines of commercial artists
everything is interchangible and our aesthetic world becomes a nightmare
of cobbeling and patching. Red desk, green desk, grey desks, cotton one
day polyester the next. Whatever the factory is making this week is good
enough; and the line forms over there.

And, where the big commercial institutions do not intrude, look again. "We
have no artists, we do what we do with art". And again the aesthetic
predominates. Everything may be patched and cobbled but it is related
with aesthetics, with art. The jitneys and big trucks are all decked out
in color and light. Homes are brightly colored. People dress with art
...when they can. It's intuitive, it's immediate, it's personal, and
almost everyone plays. And THEN the commercial world peeks in and makes a
coffee table book out of it.

It is, I feel the way we've structured commerce that's the problem, not
the designers and among the artists I worry that it is the few, the
explorers, who have gone so ahead to achieve such fame and importance and
those following aesthetes who have denigrated all that is NOT at the
cutting edge who have done the greatest damage.

This notion then, that one class of artist is the one that truly counts and
that all aesthetic practitioners outside that single tiny class are unworthy
of the name artist chills me to the bone. And after that: "The use of the
word 'Artist' is what is confusing..." makes such sad sense.

Some pundit in one of the major Art Mags a few years back proposed a
figure for the number of buyers that existed for "significant art" I'm
sure that the number he or she gave was no more than 10,000 (and probably
fewer than that) people. Certainly there are many many more who
appreciate "significant art", but still. Think about the big citys in the
world and the places in them where art and gallerys and museums are
found. A few buildings on a few streets here and there in a huge metropolis.
Multiplied by the number of large urban centers they still don't seem to
amount to much relative to the rest of the world. How many people can be
that deeply involved? Look out at the children in your classrooms? what
proportion of them come from families that recognize this significant art
and celebrate it?

It is not that significant Fine Art work from the official artworld does not
deserve celebration. It is only that it is foolish to expect the rest of
the world to "get it" or pretend to get it. Somewhere out there someone
must be saying:

"The emperors new clothes are no doubt wonderful but what do I really
care about the clothing of emperors? Why am I expected to say 'Huzzah,
hooray!'? Heck! I still have to earn the money to pay the taxes to pay
for this. Emperors need to be well dressed I suppose, but must I then be a

I think people need art in their lives and it worries me that today there
are so many who are afraid of art, afraid of making a mistake or looking
foolish. The trivial is devalued to inflate the significant I suspect. I
wish there were more people doing trivial things with art; enjoying
participation in the aesthetic.

I haven't really put this well. I'm not really ready to take this on... I
just couldn't let it pass unchallenged.